Adirondack Mountain Reserve lands in Keene Valley. Although there are restrictions prohibiting camping, swimming, off-trail travel and dogs (sometimes overzealously enforced), and parking is more than a half mile from the trailhead, the benefits are worth the trade-off: easy access to the interior via the Lake Road, and well-maintained trails through some of the most beautiful old-growth forest in all of the High Peaks.
When Beth and I left home Saturday morning, we had intended to hike Nippletop, but kept open the option of hiking Colvin and Blake instead. The approach is the same, with the trail splitting at about the 5-mile mark in Elk Pass: Nippletop to the left, Colvin and Blake to the right.
Jeff: So, left for Nippletop? Or do you want to do Colvin and Blake instead?
Beth: Well, which is harder? Let’s get the harder hike done.
Jeff: That’s probably a toss-up.
Beth: Hmm, left gives me one peak, right gives me two. (Beth already has Dial)
Jeff: OK, Colvin and Blake it is!
As it turns out, I’m convinced Colvin and Blake was the harder hike (more on that in a moment). The decision to hike Colvin and Blake was also something of a bonus for me, as Blake is one of the handfull of peaks I need for a third round, if I ever bother with documenting my second and third rounds.
The trail from the junction to the summit of Colvin is relatively easy, gaining the remaining vertical in short, steep steps interspersed with level sections. Before long, we were standing on Colvin’s summit rocks.
its slide stretching from Elk Pass nearly to the summit.
There were a few other small parties at Colvin’s summit. One party, guests of an Ausable Club member, had taken the “deluxe” route up Colvin: they took the Club’s bus up the Lake Road to Lower Ausable Lake, paddled down the length of the lake to the landing at the far end, hiked up Blake and then up Colvin, and would then hike back down to the lake for a bus ride back to the Clubhouse. If anyone is a member of the Ausable Club, or knows a member, and would like to adopt me as a guest, I am available!
As enjoyable as Colvin’s summit was, time was a factor (we had to get back to pick up our kids in Bolton Landing, not to mention the pending storm) and we set out for Blake in short order. I should have more accurately titled this post “Colvin, Blake and Colvin again,” because the route to Blake is an out-and-back that necessitates re-climbing Colvin on the return.
The 2.6 mile round trip between the two summits reminded me why I’ve hiked Colvin many times over the past 25 years, but Blake only twice. Since this is a family-friendly blog (email me if you want the R-rated version), I’ll describe the route as being rough, steep, badly eroded, and generally more difficult than many of the trailless peaks. Most of that difficulty is on the Blake half of the route, with the Colvin half in significantly better condition. The hiker is rewarded on Blake by a wooded, viewless summit, although in fairness there are some interesting views along the way.
Generally beat-up and thirsty (yup, I ran out of water), we eventually arrived back at Colvin’s summit, paused for about 3 seconds, and skedaddled on down the trail, taking the Gill Brook Cut-Off trail back to the Lake Road and out to our car. Round-trip time was 9 hours for the 15 miles and 4000’ of climbing.
Footnote: 24 hours after our hike, tropical storm Irene was raging. This part of the eastern High Peaks was hit hard, and undoubtedly some of the landscape looks very different now, post-Irene. As of this writing, the full extent and details of Irene’s impact in the backcountry are still unknown. Keene Valley and all of the High Peaks region is a very special place to Beth and me, and our hearts go out to the people and the communities that suffered losses in the storm on August 28, 2011.
Colvin Mountain, elevation 4057', order of height: 39, first ascent Verplanck Colvin and Mills Blake, 1873. Blake Mountain, elevation 3690', order of height: 43, first ascent Ed Phelps, 1874.