Throwback Thursday: First Girls’ ADK Adventure Part II – Cascade & Porter Mountains

Photo Oct 05, 9 06 26 AM (1)

This is the thrilling follow up to last week’s Thowback Thursday post, First Girls’ ADK Adventure Part I – Giant Mountain. Part one left off after a grueling, cold and rainy hike up Giant Mountain. We were all freezing and soaked to the bone, so the idea of tent camping another night sounded absolutely awful to us. We knew that without a good night’s sleep, and without dry gear, there was a very slim chance that we would actually get to climb another peak or two the next day. Finding an affordable, vacant room in Lake Placid on a Saturday night in early October proved to be a daunting task. We lucked out, however, and ended up getting the last room available at the Maple Leaf Inn, which had two queen beds, a kitchenette and dining area, and most importantly – heat and a warm shower! We got ourselves cleaned up, in dry clothes, and laid out our wet gear to dry. It felt like heaven after the day we had!

Cascade Porter Trail early sun
Early morning sunshine at the Cascade Mountain trailhead.

After getting a good night’s sleep, we woke up refreshed and ready to tackle a couple more mountains – albeit a little sore from the previous day’s strenuous climb. We ate breakfast, packed up, and made our way to the Cascade and Porter Mountain trailheads. We selected Cascade and Porter mostly because they are often described as “starter peaks” due to their well-maintained trails and relatively easy climb. Cascade Mountain is number 36 of the 46 High Peaks with an elevation of 4098 feet. Porter Mountain is number 38 with an elevation of 4059 feet. I would agree that these trails are moderate, with only a couple of steep sections. However, after summiting Giant Mountain the day before, it felt a lot more difficult than it normally might!

Cascade Porter Trailhead

We got signed in at the trailhead and made our way up a damp trail that felt significantly easier than Giant’s, though the once the trail got rocky it was tough on our aching muscles and joints. The weather this day was the completely opposite from the day before – blue sunny skies without a cloud in sight! Nonetheless we forged ahead at a comfortable pace. A friend had an extra set of trekking poles, which I had never used before. At first I didn’t like the idea of having to carry the poles and use my hands, but as my body succumbed to the soreness the poles became an invaluable tool to help distribute my body weight and reduce the impact on my legs, knees and ankles. After this hike I actually loved using trekking poles so much (see why!) that I knew I had to get a pair of my own!

As is common with my group of hiking friends, a couple ladies pulled ahead and a couple of us trailed behind a little ways. I was absolutely in no hurry that day, just enjoying the pleasant weather. This trail was a lot more populated than Giant, which is pretty typical. I’m sure it partially had to do with the nice weather, but also because this is a more popular hike for novice and recreational hikers – not just aspiring 46ers.

Cascade Porter Lookout Pano
Panoramic view from a rocky ledge on the Cascade Mountain trail.

Pretty soon we reached a rocky overlook which offered spectacular fall views of the high peaks region. We stopped as a group to take in the scenery and snap some photos, of course! This was a popular rest area for hikers along the trail, and I can see how some folks might even confuse it with the summit.

Group at Lookout
Real friends photobomb mountain selfies!

Just a little ways past the open ledge is the junction where the trail splits off to Porter Mountain on the right. We stayed on the Cascade Mountain trail and opted to summit it first.

Cascade Porter Trail Signs

 

Cascade Mountain has a large, bald summit that requires some open rock scrambling to get to the top. There is one spot in particular that is the easiest to scramble up, and there was a short wait to get through it thanks to the number of people out hiking that day.

Approaching Cascade Summit
Approaching the summit of Cascade Mountain.

The summit offers incredible 360-degree views of the surrounding high peaks. These sweeping vistas are undoubtedly what makes Cascade such a wildly popular day hike.

Girls on Cascade Summit

We took a pretty long break at the summit to enjoy our accomplishment of successfully climbing two high peaks in one weekend. Since it was a gorgeous day and we were making good time, we decided to move ahead and summit Porter Mountain as well.

We wandered back down from the summit of Cascade to the junction where the trail branches off towards Porter Mountain. The hardest part of this stretch of trail was that it seemed as though we were going down in elevation for quite a while, knowing that we would only have to climb back up again to summit. Additionally, this section of trail was less rocky and mostly dirt trail, which meant a lot of mud after the long day of rain that came before.

It was a relatively short trip up to the summit of Porter Mountain. This summit does not have a survey marker, which was a little disheartening since I enjoyed spotting the markers on my first three high peaks.

From Porter Summit
View of Cascade Mountain from the summit of Porter Mountain.

At first we didn’t even know we had reached the summit, until we continued past the rocky opening to find that the trail descended on the other side. Since we were able to get a data connection up on the summits, we did a quick Google search to verify that we were, in fact, on the summit of Porter.

Porter Mtn Group Summit

Oddly enough, I ran into yet another high school classmate on the summit who was hiking with a few friends as well. We chatted briefly and I asked them to take a photo of our entire group.

Scrambling on Porter near summit
Scrambling up a large, rocky ledge just for fun.

We made our way down from the summit, stopping a few time to scramble up some rocky ledges for even more beautiful views. On our way down, as it was getting to be about mid-to-late afternoon, we passed a couple of families and small groups hiking up the Cascade trail in street clothes – jeans, cardigans and Peds, even! We had a feeling that they might not reach the summit that day, but hopefully they had an enjoyable (though short, I would imagine) hike as well. This day was exactly what we needed to wrap up our first girls’ adventure weekend. I’m still pretty impressed that we bagged three peaks on our first trip together!

Cascade Summit Pano
Panoramic view from the summit of Cascade Mountain. Porter Mountain is right ahead.

What was your first hiking getaway with friends like? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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Fall & Winter In One Hike: Street & Nye Mountains

The fall colors of the Adirondacks were visible through the snow-covered trees on the trail to Street and Nye Mountains.
The fall colors of the Adirondacks were visible through the snow-covered trees from a clearing on the trail to Street and Nye Mountains.

Today was a mild autumn day in Rochester, and as winter draws closer I can’t help but reflect on a wild weekend I had just last month, which provided the first taste of wintery weather this season. The girls planned another Adirondack adventure in an attempt to bag a couple more high peaks this fall. We booked a cabin in Wilmington, near Whiteface Mountain, and decided we would try to summit Street and Nye Mountains on a weekend in mid-October.

Access to Nye Mountain and Street Mountain are via unmaintained trails.
“Trail Not Maintained Beyond This Point.”

Street Mountain is number 31 of the 46 High Peaks, with an elevation of 4166 feet. Nye Mountain is the second shortest of the 46 high peaks, with an elevation of 3895 feet. Nye Mountain and Street Mountain are often climbed together in a single day hike. An unmaintained trail leads hikers to the summits of both mountains from the Mount Jo Trail near Adirondack Loj.

Signing in at the trailhead.
Signing in at the trailhead.

We had the largest group of any hiking trip I’ve been on so far – this time with six ladies and one gentleman (a friend managed to sneak her boyfriend!) – all of varying hiking experience and backgrounds. We got an early start and arrived at the Adirondack Loj first thing in the morning. After parking, packing up our day packs and getting properly layered in outerwear, it was time to make our way to the trailhead.

 

We had trail maps of the area and the High Peaks Trails guidebook, but we decided to stop and ask someone at the Loj the best way to get up to the beginning of the Street & Nye trail. This proved to be a costly mistake, as the instructions she gave us actually led us almost all the way up Mount Jo in a large loop before finding the unmaintained trail. This added an extra hour-ish and almost 2 additional miles to our planned hike!

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Much of the herd path looked just like this. Easy to follow, right?

Things got interesting after we ventured out on the herd path leading up to Street and Nye Mountains. I imagine that following this herd path is usually pretty straightforward as it is the most popular route up these two “trail-less” high peaks, which are required for one to become an official 46er. However, the combination of leaf cover and light snowfall obscured much of trail for us, making it quite difficult to follow at times. Luckily there were a couple of groups heading up the same route ahead of us according to the trail register, and were able to find the herd path by following their footprints in the mud and snow.

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Before long the path comes to the Indian Pass Brook which requires crossing to continue. From what I’ve read, Indian Pass Brook appears to be typically less deep than it was the day of our hike, though I’m sure it can be much deeper in the spring with heavy rain and snow melt. After assessing the situation for some time, we decided to just take off our socks and boots, roll up our pants, and “ford the river!”

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I found myself in deep water somehow. Leave it to me!

This was my first stream crossing, and it was pretty tricky despite the relatively shallow depth. Parts of the stream where we crossed had a pretty strong current, and the rocks beneath the water were sharp and slippery. The water felt barely warmer than freezing. After all, it was cold enough to be snowing during our entire hike! The best part about the stream crossing was putting our wool socks and boots back on after reaching the other side. My feet were in heaven after fording the icy stream!

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After a short distance there was another stream crossing, this one was narrower, shallower and had a large log that traversed it. I decided to “scoot” across the log while everyone else easily walked right across. My method worked well, until I tried to exit the log on the wrong side and my right leg slid into the stream up to my thigh. So much for dry feet!

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The second stream crossing.

The trail followed a brook most of the way up the mountain, crisscrossing it a few times. We continued on by following footprints of those ahead in the snow and mud. The trail was extremely muddy and wet from the constant snowfall, so after a while it didn’t even matter that my right foot was completely soaked from the stream crossing.

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Stopping to check in with the rest of the group via walkie-talkie.

Eventually the fastest hiker of the bunch broke away from the rest and I tried my best to keep up with her. We stopped a few times to check in with the rest of the group behind us via two-way radio, and found out that three of the girls had turned around due to the weather conditions and difficulty of the hike.

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View from the clearing on the way up. All white everything!

We eventually came to a rocky ledge on the trail with a clearing in the trees. This spot probably offers a pretty nice view, but all we saw was a white out. We passed a couple of hikers who were on their way down from the summits, and they said the clearing with the trail junction for Street and Nye was impossible to miss.

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A lovely view from the wooded summit of Nye Mountain!

Well that was a bit misleading, since we somehow managed to go straight past the junction without even noticing! I suppose it’s because of how closely we were following the tracks to make sure we stayed on the path, but eventually the trail just seemed to stop completely and we couldn’t tell for the life of us where to continue.

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At the summit of my 7th High Peak!

 

As we looked around in confusion, trying to figure out where or how we went wrong, I looked up and spotted the “Nye Mountain” sign above our heads. We had summited without even realizing it! We high-fived to another high peak conquered, and radioed to the other two who were behind us to see how far away they were.

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I think I will start calling us the “Three Mountaineers!”

Just as we were about to head down to the junction to wait for the others, they came climbing up to the summit area. We joined them back up at the summit of Nye, snapped a few pictures, and decided to forge ahead to Street Mountain. This time when we came to the junction, it was slightly more obvious but also pretty clear why we missed it on the way up. Coming down the summit of Nye, there was a clearly visible rock cairn marking the spot where the Street Mountain trail veers off that we hadn’t seen before.

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The view from Street Mountain’s summit was no better.

The hike from the junction up to the summit of Street Mountain was pretty brutal. I’m not sure if it was the weather, the fact that I was out-of-shape or tried to keep up with a super speedy hiker, but this steep section of trail took a toll on me. I was so relieved when we finally reached the summit of Street Mountain after nearly an hour of hiking from the junction.

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Fake smile and thumbs up after finally summiting my 8th High Peak!

Just past the summit of Street Mountain the trail continues to a clearing that (supposedly) offers more of a scenic view. I don’t know about all that, since the only view we got all day was of snowy clouds. We snapped a few more pictures, stopped to eat sandwiches and relaxed at the summit until our body temperatures reminded us to keep moving.

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The way down a mountain is always kind of boring during an out-and-back hike, and tends to be more rough on the joints than going up. This adventure proved to be no different, and thanks to my ambitious speed on the way up, I was moving more slowly than ever on the way down. We broke off into two groups, with two people leading the way and two of us following quite a ways behind. This turned out to be a good thing, however, because when we came to the rocky ledge beyond the junction, there was a break in the clouds moving across the mountains which offered an absolutely breathtaking view, completely unlike what we saw on the way up.

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My friend stopped for a moment to take in the incredible sight, but she was eager to continue our descent. I had a hard time pulling myself away from the most rewarding part of the entire day’s hike! After I was done taking hundreds of photos and taking in the moment of beauty, we made our way back down the herd path the same way we came up.

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When we reached the two stream crossings, we didn’t stop to spend any time considering our best option for crossing – we just forded through, boots on and all. We didn’t want to waste time taking our footwear off and finding the best spot to cross, since we were tired and running out of daylight. We may have underestimated how far the trailhead was from the Indian Pass Brook, and for that entire stretch my wet boots felt like cement blocks on my feet. Before long, however, we reached the end (or beginning?) of the herd path where it met the Mount Jo trail and found the exact point where our instructions steered us in the wrong direction that morning. We passed Heart Lake and came out at the trailhead near the Adirondack Loj, proud to have bagged two more high peaks and eager to get our hard-earned pumpkin pie milkshakes from Stewart’s!

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Summit selfies are a peak-bagging tradition!

Have you ever hiked an unmaintained trail? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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Throwback Thursday: First Girls’ ADK Adventure Part I – Giant Mountain

Cold, rainy day on Giant Mountain with no summit views.
It was a cold, rainy day on Giant Mountain with no summit views.

For this edition of Throwback Thursday we’re taking it back to October 2014 for our first “Girls’ ADK Adventure Weekend”. You know what’s truly awesome? Having fantastic female friends who love trails, mountains and adventures as much as you do. I am lucky to have met some inspiring and fearless ladies in the past few years whose appetite for adventure is absolutely contagious.

Packed for Girls' Adventure Weekend - what could possibly go wrong?
Packed for Girls’ Adventure Weekend – what could possibly go wrong?

After bagging my first high peak in the spring of 2014 with my partner, I was aching to get back to the mountains for some more adventures. When the idea for a ladies’ high peaks trip came up at the bar after a kickball game, I knew I had to go! After hearing about an easily accessible camping area close to the Giant Mountain/Roaring Brook Trailhead, we decided we would rough it for a fall weekend and attempt 3 High Peaks: Giant Mountain, Cascade Mountain and Porter Mountain. We decided to depart on a Friday evening after work, knowing we would be arriving to set up camp in the dark. We weren’t very worried because we had it on good authority that our camping spot would be easy to find and close to the parking lot. Off we went – four women and a Goldendoodle.

Wet leaves in the Giant Mountain Wilderness Area.
Wet leaves in the Giant Mountain Wilderness Area.

The drive went by quickly and uneventfully, but that’s probably because I slept a good part of the way there. However, once we got to Keene Valley things started to get challenging almost immediately. This too-good-to-be-true camping spot turned out to be impossible to find, likely because it was nothing like what was described to us. We followed the instructions from our trusted source to a T only to find the parking area completely surrounded by “No Camping” signs. It was late, dark, and we were following bad directions in an unfamiliar area. We were not at all prepared to venture out for a hike to find a designated camping spot, as we weren’t planning a backpacking trip. Car camping is more of what we had in mind. In our tired, frazzled daze we decided to park at the Giant Mountain/Roaring Brook Trailhead and wander in a short distance to find a place to set up camp. Every flat area that looked ideal was met with a nearby “No Camping” sign as well. We gave up, running out of time and energy, and decided to camp a little ways off trail and risk eviction if some night-prowling park ranger were to stumble upon us.

Giant Mtn Trail Sign

We managed to set up camp pretty quickly and get settled in for some sleep. Three of us shared a tent, while another stayed in a separate tent with her dog. I must have been exhausted because even after my car nap I fell right asleep. The other ladies didn’t have as much luck and hardly slept. Of course it didn’t help that a short time later a large group of people came down the trail and set up camp all around us – loudly. I’m really surprised at how well I slept; I only woke up briefly once and fell right back asleep. The others hardly slept at all, partially due to the fact that the our new camp neighbors were up talking and laughing directly outside our tents for much of the night.

Before the light rain turned into heavy rain, and we went from being a little damp to dripping wet.
Before the light rain turned into heavy rain, and we went from being a little damp to dripping wet.

We wanted to get an early start for our Giant Mountain hike, but when our 6:30 am wake up time came none of us felt like moving. A reminder that we should pack up camp before it started to rain was enough to get us to all sit up in unison. We packed up even faster than we set up the night before. There were almost a dozen tents all around us, filled with hikers who had been asleep for only a couple of hours, or so it seemed. We loaded our gear into the car and used camp stoves to make (instant) coffee and oatmeal in the small parking lot. We packed our daypacks with water and supplies and ventured onto the trail just as it began to rain lightly.

Exploring the top of Roaring Brook Falls.
Exploring the top of Roaring Brook Falls.

The light rain eventually turned into a moderate rain which become a heavy rain for much of our hike. For two ladies it was their very first high peak, and for two of us it would be our second. None of us were willing to let the weather stand in our way. We made our way up toward the summit of Giant via the Roaring Brook Trail. A short ways into the trail there is a split where hikers can go straight to Roaring Brook Falls or left to continue up to Giant’s open rock summit. The falls didn’t appear to be much farther on the trail map, so we decided to check it out before continuing up Giant. Because we were still low enough in elevation to avoid complete cloud cover when we reached the top of Roaring Brook Falls, it offered the best view of the area we got all day. We rock-hopped across the brook and made our way to the top of the falls to take in the breathtaking sight.

A view of some fog lifting over the mountains from the top of Roaring Brook Falls.
A view of some fog lifting over the mountains from the top of Roaring Brook Falls.

After exploring Roaring Brook Falls we continued to follow the trail all the way up to the summit of Giant. The 3.4 mile trail ascends 3,375 feet from the Roaring Brook Trailhead to the summit, and has several steep sections that require scrambling – hand over hand climbing. The rain never let up and only became heavier as the day went on, turning the trail into a muddy stream for us to traverse during our several-hour climb. This was a pretty exciting trail, and it would have been a lot of fun to hike in more favorable conditions. However, we were soaked to our core, freezing, and growing more surly with each difficult step.

The most misleading sign you will ever read. That last one tenth of a mile goes straight up.
The most misleading sign you will ever read. That last one tenth of a mile goes straight up.

We finally reached a rocky clearing with a sign indicating we were 0.1 miles from the summit of Giant Mountain – our goal destination felt within reach! You heard it here first – that was the absolute longest one tenth of a mile in my entire life! Be warned – that sign is very deceiving, especially when you are cold, soaking wet, tired and eager to head back. We pressed on, nonetheless, eventually summiting the mountain with high winds, falling snow and complete cloud cover.

Survey marker at the summit of Giant Mountain.
Survey marker at the summit of Giant Mountain.

While it was difficult to enjoy the moment in the conditions we faced, we all still felt the significant sense of accomplishment that only comes with touching a survey marker after such adversity (admittedly, hikers and climbers all over the globe face much greater adversity than cold rain – this isn’t Everest, after all). A couple of us still managed to crack open a ceremonial summit beer and scarf down a sandwich before beginning our long, cold, wet descent back to the trailhead. The rain eventually let up, but not until well after each one of us was so uncomfortable that the thought of tenting another night was completely unbearable. I think most normal people would have cut their losses and headed home to relax and recover from such a grueling experience. We aren’t most people, though.

Summit of Giant Mtn
After all of our hard work, this was the scene that greeted us at the summit.

Read Part II of our “First Girls’ ADK Adventure Weekend” here!

Have you ever had a bad-weather adventure? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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High Tor Wildlife Management Area & Conklin Gully

A section of trail overlooking Conklin Gully.
A section of trail overlooking Conklin Gully.

I’ve been interested in checking out the trails in the High Tor Wildlife Management Area for quite some time. So when I got a text message from a friend Friday afternoon asking if I was interested in joining a last-minute hiking trip to the area I just couldn’t say no. The High Tor Wildlife Management area is located just east of Naples, NY, about an hour away from Rochester. Tor refers to a hill or rocky peak, which accurately describes the terrain of this area. Hikers are treated to steep wooded hills, eroded cliffs, gullies and waterfalls.

The Hi Tor Blue Trail entrance at the parking area off Parish Hill Rd.
The Hi Tor Blue Trail entrance at the parking area off Parish Hill Rd.

We drove to the parking area off of Parish Hill Road to find a trailhead for the Hi Tor Blue Trail. We set out to hike up to an overlook with a view of Canandaigua Lake, checking out a bit of Conklin Gully along the way. We didn’t bring a trail map since we thought the trails looked pretty straight-forward from our internet research (ha!). Unfortunately it didn’t take very long for us to realize we were no longer following a marked trail and needed to regroup. Around this time we started to hear gunfire in the area, reminding us that we were hiking in a popular hunting area during hunting season. As we discussed how near or far the gunfire might be, we noticed a few shotgun shells on the trail near our feet – ugh! I have no problem sharing outdoor spaces with all types of recreationalists, but I have zero tolerance for those who litter. Leave no trace means exactly that, and leaving shotgun shells on the trail is no different than leaving a granola bar wrapper – just don’t do it, okay?

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We were a little nervous about hiking with two dogs in this area during hunting season, but we decided that it was getting late enough in the day to not pose much of a threat. We backtracked to where we saw the Blue Trail markings turn toward the gully and proceeded along the trail, hoping to make our way up to the Canandaigua Lake overlook. Before long, we crossed a shallow, rocky part of the gully and followed the trail up to a steep ledge along 100 ft. sheer walls. This portion of the trail offered amazing views of the gully’s rocky walls and waterfalls below.

Steep part of the Hi Tor Blue Trail leading up to a camping area and scenic overlook.
Steep part of the Hi Tor Blue Trail leading up to a camping area and scenic overlook.

After stopping to take in the scenery and snap some photos, we pressed on and reached a point where the trail widens to a space large enough to fit an ATV. At this point the trail becomes pretty steep, and goes straight up until a large clearing with a lean-to, outhouse, food locker and fire pits. This is a beautiful camping spot at the Canandaigua Lake overlook, but unfortunately camping is seasonal and restricted to organized groups by permit only.

A well-maintained lean-to on the Hi Tor Blue Trail.
A well-maintained lean-to on the Hi Tor Blue Trail.

We stopped for a while again to enjoy the spectacular view of the lake and conveniently use the outhouse near the camping area. A few hikers came from the other end of the trail and stopped briefly to chat. They had driven from Buffalo to spend the day in the area. We decided to follow the Blue Trail a bit longer, until it intersected a section of the Finger Lakes Trail that connected back to the steep, wide section of the Blue Trail again.

A gorgeous fall view of Canandaigua Lake.
A gorgeous fall view of Canandaigua Lake.

On the way down we wandered off trail a bit to explore a tributary which ran into the gully, creating a small waterfall. We climbed down to the top of the waterfall and looked over the steep ledge down to Conklin Gully before making our way back to the trailhead via the Blue Trail.

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Standing on the “edge of the world!”

As we passed by the Conklin Gully overlook section of trail again, we noticed two men hiking through the gully below us. A popular way to hike this area, particularly in warmer weather, is to hike straight through the gully. Some sections of the gully have steep waterfalls, and sometimes there are ropes to help hikers traverse these sections. The waterfall directly below where we were was one such section, and we watched the men use the rope to climb up alongside the waterfall with ease.

Two men hiking through the gully below, approaching a steep waterfall.
Two men hiking through the gully below, approaching a steep waterfall.

It was a short hike back to the trailhead, which made us realize exactly how far out of the way we had initially gone when starting out. Overall it was a very enjoyable hike, with some challenging uphill sections, gorgeous views and exciting terrain. I’m already looking forward to coming back to the area in warmer weather to hopefully hike all the way through the gully. We’re also hoping to plan a section hike of the Finger Lakes Trail, which passes through the High Tor Wildlife Management Area and connects to the Hi Tor Blue Trail. So much to explore!

We're coming for you, Finger Lakes Trail!
We’re coming for you, Finger Lakes Trail!

What’s your favorite hiking spot in the Finger Lakes? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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Namaste & Nature: Hikyoga™

Hikyoga™ class overlooking Lake Ontario.
Hikyoga™ at Chimney Bluffs State Park overlooking Lake Ontario last month.

I love yoga, and I love the outdoors. It only makes sense then that I would eventually find a way to take my practice outside, right? Usually my practice takes place at my gym’s Vinyasa class, interspersed with some occasional hot yoga classes at the local Bikram studio. The first outdoor yoga class I took was in July 2014 when Rochester Young Professionals offered the outdoor recreation event “Yoga in the Park” led by Sarah from Inner Bloom Yoga. The event took place near the Sunken Garden in Highland Park – a truly beautiful setting for a peaceful practice right in the city of Rochester.

RYP's Yoga in the Park event in July 2014.
RYP’s Yoga in the Park event in July 2014.

I loved the class and the instructor did a great job, however I hadn’t heard about many other opportunities for outdoor yoga classes in the area since. Through social media and friends near Washington, DC I heard about something called Yoga Hikes DC and I thought it sounded like a terrific way to combine two of my favorite activities – and I wished such a thing existed in Rochester, NY. So I was thrilled to open up the Democrat and Chronicle one day to find an article about a Webster woman guiding adventures in area parks that blend hiking and yoga. Count me in!

Hiking along the Bluff Trail during a Hikyoga™ event.
Hiking along the Bluff Trail during a Hikyoga™ event.

I signed up for the October 4th Hikyoga™ at Chimney Bluffs State Park in Wolcott, NY. Chimney Bluffs State Park is about an hour east of Rochester. The park offers hiking in wooded trails and along the lakeshore featuring incredible views of the razor-sharp bluffs. The steep cliffs and rock/mud formations were carved by glaciers and are constantly evolving due to erosion.

Chimney Bluffs

Nicole Kazimer led a good-sized group of us through a yoga warm up, hike to the bluffs, and a full yoga class in a grassy area of the park overlooking Lake Ontario. The hike was mostly flat and not very long, less than two miles total. We ventured out to an overlook on the trail with views of the impressive bluffs, then went back the same to way we came to our spot on the lake for an invigorating yoga practice. There was a pleasant breeze and the sound of Lake Ontario’s waves crashing against the shore added a special ambiance to our meditation that really made me feel connected to nature.

Hiking along the steep ledge of the Bluff Trail.
Hiking along the steep ledge of the Bluff Trail.

Overall it was a truly wonderful experience and I’ve been dying to join another Hikyoga™ outing, but schedule restrictions have gotten in the way of previous and upcoming events. If you’re interested in attending, check out Nicole’s website www.helloyogagirl.com to learn more. You can also follow her on Instagram for some wanderlust-inducing yoga shots at @helloyogagirl.

Have you ever tried a yoga hike? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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“Falling” at Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park in the fall.

It’s November now, and in Western New York that means the snow can fall at any time. That’s reason enough for any outdoor enthusiast to get out and enjoy every remaining minute of this beautiful fall season. So last weekend we set out to do exactly that by making the drive down to Letchworth State Park.

A photo of orange leaves on a tree in Letchworth.
Go peep some leaves while there’s still time!

Letchworth State Park, also known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” is located almost 60 miles south of Rochester and was voted the best state park in the country by readers of the USA Today and 10Best in 2015. The park features three waterfalls surrounded by lush forests and offers 66 miles of hiking trails and plenty of other recreational activities.

Middle Falls at Letchworth State Park in the Fall.
Middle Falls in the fall.

We got a late start, leaving Rochester in the early afternoon, and hoped to hike a portion of the Gorge Trail, which offers some of the best views of the park’s waterfalls and scenic gorge. We set out from the parking lot at the Portageville Entrance and planned to hike four miles out to the Great Bend overlook and back, for a total distance of about 8 miles.

Ready to start our hike in the rain at the south end of Letchworth.
Ready to start our hike in the rain at the south end of Letchworth.

The Gorge Trail follows Park Road for much of the section we hiked, with easy access to and parking areas near most of the scenic overviews along the trail. While this is great because it allows folks of all fitness levels and physical abilities to take in the magnificent scenery, it was quite a different experience than the type of scenic hiking we are accustomed to.

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When climbing a high peak, for instance, you might spend several hours in the deep woods before summiting and after your hard work you are (sometimes) rewarded with an absolutely breathtaking view. I imagine stopping at these overlooks amongst park-goers in their street clothes, fresh out of their warm vehicles, is similar to climbing a mountain that also has summit access by car or chairlift. Your journey wasn’t the same, and you may have had to work a little harder, but the shared appreciation for mother nature’s beauty is undeniable.

Photo taken by a nice woman who drove to the Great Bend overlook, which was 4 miles in to our hike.
Photo taken by a nice woman who drove to the Great Bend overlook, which was 4 miles in to our hike.

Do you have a favorite state park? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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Throwback Thursday: Algonquin Peak

Survey marker at the summit of Algonquin Peak.
Survey marker at the summit of Algonquin Peak, June 2014.

For my first edition of “Throwback Thursday” I’d like to share an exciting first – my first Adirondack High Peak! For those who might be unfamiliar, the High Peaks are the 46 peaks in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate NY which were originally believed to be higher than 4,000 feet in elevation.

My partner is an avid hiker and mountaineer and had climbed at least a dozen high peaks prior to our relationship, so he could not wait to share this experience with me. We planned our first Adirondack adventure together for Memorial Day weekend 2013 and set out to do Algonquin Peak, which offers spectacular views and is achievable in a day hike. Algonquin Peak is the second highest mountain in the Adirondacks (and New York state).  We took a long weekend, booked a hotel in nearby Lake Placid, and set off!

View of Mirror Lake and the High Peaks from our hotel room balcony.
View of Mirror Lake and the High Peaks from our hotel room balcony. Mountain in the distance is NOT Algonquin Peak.

We figured that since our trip was to take place the last weekend in May, that we would be in the clear weather-wise. Unfortunately for us, the mountains had other plans. It rained for a week-straight leading up to our trip, which translated into a ton of snow accumulation in the colder high elevations. Three feet of snow accumulation, as a matter of fact. Not to be deterred after traveling several hours and booking our hotel stay, we set out to see if we could still summit a mountain. Snow be damned!

Posing in the Adirondack Loj before starting our hike.
Posing in the Adirondack Loj before starting our hike.

We set out for Algonquin Peak from the Adirondack Loj, following a popular trail that leads to the summit. The trail was incredibly wet and muddy, and it didn’t take long before we encountered snow. After a short time we came upon Marcy Dam, where we took shelter from the cold rain/snow mix in a nearby lean-to. A little cinnamon whiskey helped warm us up! Before long, a forest ranger came by and asked us where we were heading. When we told her our plans to hike to the summit of Algonquin, she informed us that the trails were covered with a few feet of snowfall beyond where we were, and that summiting would require snowshoes or skis. We had neither. At this point, it was in our best interest to turn around and head back, accepting defeat.

This blurry lean-to selfie shows the mix of mud, snow and rain on the ground.
This blurry lean-to selfie shows the mix of mud, snow and rain on the ground. Conditions were not ideal.

Even though I did not get to summit a peak on my first Adirondack hike, it was a great experience to see the wild beauty of the mountain trails (for the few miles I did get to hike, anyway). I also learned how quickly conditions can change in the high peaks, and that preparedness is essential to a successful hike – though who would have thought to bring snowshoes a few days away from June?!

Standing in front of a field with mountains in the background.
Immediately after our hike the sun came out and gave us a nice view of the high peaks on our way back to Lake Placid.

Luckily, we are not the type to give up that easily and my almost-summit experience made me want to climb a high peak more than ever. So we scheduled our second attempt a little over a year later, in mid-June 2014. This date happened to put us in the heart of black fly season (ugh!), but certainly we had to eliminate the risk of another snow-fueled turnaround. We stayed at the same hotel in Lake Placid and made our way back to the Adirondack Loj to tackle Algonquin Peak – for real this time! The conditions were more favorable: a little overcast/cloudy and threatening rain. Because of the clouds, we weren’t sure if there would be much of a view at the summit. That didn’t matter, because nothing was going to stop us this time!

We lucked out and made our way up to the summit at a relatively easy pace. I even passed an old high school classmate who was on his way down from Wright Peak – how weird is that?! It’s not the last time I’d see an old familiar face out in the high peaks, strangely enough. The biggest obstacle we encountered that day was running out of bug spray before reaching the summit – I did mention it was black fly season, correct? The bugs were insane. Luckily, there was one other small group of hikers at the summit who generously let us use some of theirs, and they took a few pictures for us as well.

Standing on the summit of Algonquin Peak.
We summited Algonquin on our second trip and were rewarded with breathtaking views of the high peaks!

Summiting my first high peak is an experience that’s hard to describe. I think overwhelming comes close. Perhaps this experience was a little more dramatic, given our failed attempt one year earlier. One thing was certain, though: I WAS HOOKED. This cool experience was about to become an obsession. I’ve climbed 7 more high peaks in 14 months since this day, and though I don’t really define myself as an aspiring 46er yet (that’s someone who climbs all 46 high peaks), I am aching to bag as many peaks as possible!

A panoramic shot from the summit of Algonquin Peak.
A panoramic shot from the summit of Algonquin Peak.

Have you ever been unable to summit due to difficult weather or trail conditions? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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