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