Essex County High Point Trip Report

Date: August 31, 2000
Author: David Galvin

I first climbed Mount Marcy on a chilly, drizzly day in early July 1993. I had come in from the Garden at Keene Valley the day before and, after spending a hot afternoon trying to outrun an Olympic tag team of black flies up Johns Brook, I had camped at Slant Rock and scratched though the night. When I finally arrived at the summit a fine, cold rain started falling. I could see a few nearby peaks (Skylight and Haystack, I think) but clouds obscured the rest of the view. I noted the bronze plaque and the benchmark and the moody crowds of people huddled about on the rocks waiting for a photo opportunity. Having seen enough, I decided to leave. I descended the south side of the mountain and visited Lake Tear of the Clouds, but the black flies were relentless, and I had to keep moving. The whole experience was less than awe inspiring and I never expected to return to Marcy's summit.

I climbed it again on August 31, 2000, in sunlight and a pleasant breeze, with my fifteen year old son. We had come in from the Upper Works Road in the extinct town of Tahawus (which also happens to be an extinct name for Mount Marcy) and camped at the Uphill Brook lean-to. Biting insects were minimal. The hike in was moderately strenuous. The scenes along the route, the waterfalls and gorges on the Opalescent River, in particular, were gorgeous. Most striking was the final ascent of Marcy from the trail intersection called Four Corners. For more than five hundred feet vertical we climbed through the usual balsam and spruce scrub that gives Adirondack bushwhacking such a bad reputation. Then we came to a large erratic boulder from which we could see Mount Haystack, the Boreal Range and Ponds, as well as the southern Colvin and Dix Ranges to the East. Shortly after this, we stepped out of the scrub and watched the panorama widen as we climbed from cairn to cairn up the last four hundred feet to the summit. The crowd was thin on top, a few small groups and couples enjoying the late summer sunshine and long views in every direction. I again found the USGS benchmark, but also located the defaced remains of the Adirondack Survey spike on the actual summit point, about thirty feet from the benchmark. As we sat and ate our lunch and looked down on the Johns Brook Valley, I wondered at the contrasting experiences on my two climbs up Marcy. Slowly, I found myself falling in love with this mountain. I don't wonder why someone like Peter Fish might climb it five hundred times.

At about eight miles and a 3500' elevation gain over moderate terrain, the Upper Works to Marcy via Flowed Lands is a practical day hike, given an early start and a long day. It also saves you the parking fees that are charged at the Garden and at the Adirondak Loj. The Upper Works Road is no joy, though. This road, which used to serve the defunct iron, then titanium, then magnetite mine at Tahawus, hasn't seen maintenance for over ten years. Although the signs for the hiking trails are in good repair, the road itself is worse than some of the cow paths that Dan Case has talked me into driving up in the Leatherstocking and Catskill regions of New Yawk. Upper Works Road connects with Route 2B, which connects to Route 28N, which connects the village of Newcomb with the planet Earth. I have been told that Newcomb is listed by Guinness as having the longest main street without intersections in the world, some eighteen miles. There are no motels in Newcomb and no gas station. There is a general store. It sells canned goods that haven't been seen elsewhere since the 1940s. You approach the area on 28N from Long Lake to the west or from I-87 at North Hudson from the east via 2B, or from Pottersville on 28N from the southeast.

If, like my son and I, you are considering camping, be aware that thieving black bears are very active, especially around Lake Colden and Flowed Lands, and take appropriate precautions. Otherwise you face either the lose of provisions to Yogi or at least a stern lecture from a park ranger on the proper way to hang a bear bag. I myself have enjoyed both of these character building experiences,