Marcy climbed Marcy: She was a beast

17 Marcy and Randy selfie on Mt. Marcy

“And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden”
— Crosby, Stills & Nash (Joni Mitchell)

Trip report for Mt. Marcy, the highest peak in New York state, elevation 5,344 feet (climb of 3,121 feet), Aug. 21-23, 2016

  • Day 1: 3.5 miles from the Garden parking lot to Johns Brook Lodge
  • Day 2: 11 miles to Mt. Marcy summit and back (Hopkins Trail)
  • Day 3: 3.5 miles from Johns Brook Lodge to the Garden parking lot

Day 1

I love the beginning of every hike. The buzz from the road quickly fades away and is replaced by the gurgles of streams and the rustling of the wind through the trees. For long stretches of time, the cares of the outside world fade away too, with the only concerns being which line of stones to take across a stream, or the looming thunderstorm that quickens my steps.

01 High Peaks Wilderness Area sign   02 Trail to Johns Brook Lodge

We’d arrived in the Adirondack town of Keene, NY, in the early afternoon and had 3.5 miles to hike to the Johns Brook Lodge. By staying at the lodge, we shaved a few miles off the trip to the fairly remote peak of Mt. Marcy. I’ve “retired” from hiking a few times, after summiting Katahdin pushed me to the utter edge of my abilities and the Inca Trail was so amazing it seemed like the perfect capstone. I’m not someone who naturally loves hiking — I’m miserable pretty much the whole way up, and I am clumsy and scared when climbing on rocks — yet I love being in the woods, taking on a challenge, and sharing the experience with my husband, who loves hiking. So I came out of retirement at least one more time for the mountain that shares my name and a peak I’ve always wanted to climb.

Thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon, and we tried to outwalk the rain, but we were stuck in it for about 20 minutes before we arrived at the Johns Brook Lodge, not too bad since the hard rain was still to come.

07 Adirondacks in the Adirondacks

Adirondacks in the Adirondacks

03 Weather on Sunday Aug 21 2016 Johns Brook Lodge   05 Fireplace Johns Brook Lodge

The lodge is beautiful and well-run, and a friendly staff of young women served up a delicious hot meal of chili and rice for dinner. It was fun to hang out and relax with other hikers and hear about their adventures. The lodge is in the heart of many high peaks and several of the people we talked to were working their way through the 46 Adirondack High Peaks.

04 Our bunks in Johns Brook Lodge   08 Inside Johns Brook Lodge

And how often these days can you look around a room full of people and not see one person on his phone? No signal, no distractions.

09 Nighttime in the Adirondacks

Day 2

11 Trail signs at Johns Brook Lodge   10 Johns Brook Lodge

13 Randy and Marcy at Johns Brook Lodge

We took the Hopkins Trail up the mountain and had 5.5 miles to hike to the summit. We were warned it was the “messier” of the two ascents, and with the previous night’s rain, it was indeed a boggy, muddy mess. A rivulet flowed down our trail for hours, and I methodically picked my way from rock to rock.

We made slow but steady progress throughout the morning and talked with a “summit steward” at the edge of treeline. She was there to remind people to stay on the rocks and not step on the fragile plants in the alpine zone above treeline.

She said she would usually be on the summit, but with the extreme cold and strong winds up there, she was huddled at the edge of the little dwarf trees. We had 0.6 of a mile left to the summit.

We added a fleece and a jacket and headed upward. Once above treeline, the wind instantly became cold and fierce. We passed several pairs of hikers coming down who all commented on how strong the wind was up ahead. Those final six-tenths had long stretches of steep (to me) slabs of rock to climb.

I did pretty well and only got foolishly stuck on my hands and knees once when I got a little panicky about where to place a foot. I was keeping a running tally of how many times I’d whined during the hike in an effort to stay positive. I only had one whine up until this point, but I racked up five in quick succession. The wind was so strong and cold, and each turn was another false summit of steep rock. I was actually OK with going up, but my fear was building about going down the steep ledges, which always scares me. At one point I said to my husband, “Well, we can kiss dinner goodbye!” (scheduled for 6:30 p.m.) as I imagined myself crawling the whole way back down.

Onward I went. We finally reached the desolate and deserted summit at about 1 p.m. We took a quick selfie and a few other photos while in the middle of a freezing cloud with absolutely no view.

18 Randy on Mt. Marcy plaque   19 Marcy at Mt. Marcy plaque

15 Mt. Marcy approaching summit

(Video link)

I now faced descending the steep ledges of rock. I wish I had photos of this area to show, but my hands were blocks of ice, my camera was stowed away, and time was ticking! I’m proud to say, though, that for the first time in my long history of semi-inept hiking I made genuine progress when I was finally able to use my hiking poles and descend face first, rather than my usual technique of climbing down backwards or scuttling on my hands and feet like a crab. Randy even got a laugh out of me at one point when he noticed my ease descending a stretch of rock and blurted out, “Timid no more!”

Once below treeline again, we had a long and tiring slog down and back to the lodge. Within about half an hour, the skies started to clear, and it was beautiful for the rest of the day — pretty disappointing, I guess, but I was so grateful that it wasn’t raining that I didn’t mind that much.

Gray skies are gonna clear up. Put on a happy face.

22 Stream on Mt. Marcy   23 Boggy boots after hiking Mt. Marcy

Day 3

26 Marcy Adirondacks footbridge   25 Yellow foot trail blaze Adirondacks

The hike back to the Garden was easy as pie, which we treated ourselves to for lunch, having heard about a local diner renowned for its homemade pies. One slice of blueberry, hike safely completed, and a cup of coffee: Heaven.

27 28 Noon Mark Diner blueberry pie collage


I’m still ambivalent about hiking and don’t know whether I have more challenging hikes on my horizon. Eleven miles was longer than I’m comfortable hiking in one day, but for this remote peak, that was the closest we could get.

All in all, I’m grateful I was able to have a few days in the woods with the beautiful and formidable Mt. Marcy. Was I a beast? Maybe not, but she sure was.

For my Fitbit friends

29 38,000 steps Fitbit data Mt. Marcy 38,000 steps! (The miles are over-represented by my little steps on every rock. With the 11-mile hike and the rest of my day, I probably walked about 12 miles.)

Active minutes Fitbit

Some of my other hiking tales

The Inca Trail | Mt. Katahdin |Mt. Washington | Monument Valley | Skellig Michael (Ireland) | Costa Rica (canyoneering)

{Celebrate your courage: Send me a postcard.}

About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days (and beyond), and writing my memoirs. My book: Timid No More.

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17 Responses to Marcy climbed Marcy: She was a beast

  1. Alicia says:

    You may not feel you were a beast, but you most definitely are a bad ass!! That whole report cracked me up! Great job!

  2. Nancy Bradley says:

    I love your writing! Great re-cap of your adventure and great photos!

    • Marcy says:

      Thanks, Nancy–I love taking photos and thought the area was beautiful. It was my first time in the Adirondacks, and I’d like to go back.

  3. Abby says:

    You’re amazing! I loved reading this latest adventure and how you pushed onward through the rough conditions. 11 miles in one day, wow! Great pics, too.

    When we lived in New York, we visited the Adirondacks every fall (but never summitted any peaks). This brought back nice memories – I want to go!

    • Marcy says:

      Thanks, Abby! I loved the region and would like to go back. Maybe I could find a small one to hike during the fall when the leaves have changed? I don’t think an easier one would count as coming out of retirement again, ha ha.

  4. Linda says:

    Wow, Marcy, that was some challenge! Thanks for sharing your hike, the scenery looks beautiful and rugged. And the cold, in midsummer, that’s hard to imagine!
    Linda recently posted..Summer SunsetMy Profile

    • Marcy says:

      I’ve done some hiking in the White Mountains in NH, and I was always amazed how different the weather is above treelike. Thanks, Linda 🙂

  5. Norbert says:

    Don’t you love mid-summer in upstate New York! That’s Mt. Marcy as I know it! Nice report, great pics, and reminds me exactly of my experience some years ago. You picked a tough hike to start with!

    • Marcy says:

      Ha ha, that’s true, Norbert. I’ve been looking around at other people’s trip reports, and quite a few people have had the same “view” that I had. It was other-worldly up there for sure. Thanks for visiting.

  6. Amber says:

    What an awesome hike! I adore hiking in the rain! Can’t wait until we have more fall like weather here in California!

  7. Geets says:

    You sure had an amazing time! And the pictures are lovely! I too am fond of adventures! Just them all!


  8. Hi Marcy – How have you been? Love the pictures and the story that went with them. I wish I was half as adventurous as you.

  9. Pingback: Year in Review 2016: Top 12 Posts | (Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish

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