After hiking Cascade and Porter last week, I wanted to try a “next step” High Peak, and the friendly, smart people on the Aspiring 46ers Facebook group suggested that Phelps, Wright, or Big Slide might be good options. My friend Sandy and I settled on Wright and set out on the trail after lunch yesterday, hoping that a forecast for clearing skies as the day went on might let us stay dry and catch a slightly better view at the top.
The trail starts out at Adirondack Loj, where we were happy to find plenty of parking, since the holiday weekend hadn’t officially started yet. We started off through the woods on the Van Hoevenberg trail toward Marcy Dam. After almost a mile, the trail to Wright Peak and Algonquin diverges and goes on a while longer before it starts to get steeper.
We were watching for the left turn to the Wright Peak trail (the main trail continues on to Algonquin, which we’d planned to save for another day) and worried we might have missed it, but two summit stewards on their way down the mountain assured us it was up ahead. They reminded us to stay on bare rock at the summit to protect the fragile alpine vegetation, which is truly lovely and has made a great recovery in recent years, thanks to raised awareness. We found the trail junction, hiked a bit more, and after a steep rock scramble, started the last push to the summit.
While not super-challenging in the world of the High Peaks, this is the steepest mountain I’ve climbed so far. It was exhilarating and a little scary to be climbing on bare rock above the tree line, and we enjoyed the cooler breeze on this last push. This summit was High Peak #3 for me, and the first for Sandy, or maybe the second. (She’s not sure if she climbed Cascade once a long time ago.)
The summit was cloudy, but there were some fleeting glimpses of neighboring Algonquin.
After a little time at the summit, we hiked down through the rocks to see the wreckage of a B-47 bomber that crashed here during a training mission in 1962.
It was after four, and we knew we had a steep climb down, so we didn’t take as much time as we might have to explore the top of the mountain before heading back down into the clouds.
When we got closer to the Loj, we saw these cool mushroomy, fungusy looking things growing among the conifers. I’d seen them on an earlier hike here and found out this is actually a parasitic plant called Monotropa uniflora, also called ghost plant, or Indian pipe. It’s not green because it doesn’t have chlorophyll, which other plants need to make food. Instead, this plant steals food from the roots of nearby trees.
We made it back to the Adirondack Loj at about quarter after seven, just about six hours after we’d set out. I learned two things on this hike – first, that I think I prefer getting an earlier start to the day so there’s less clock-watching at the summit and on the way back. And second, I learned that I like to hike with trekking poles. Sandy had brought an extra pair for me to try, and they really made a difference, especially on the way down, so I’m going to shop around for a pair soon.
Already looking forward to the next peak!