April 25, 2013

Hike Along the Ausable River (Adirondacks)

Last weekend Adam and I hiked along the Ausable River in the Adirondacks.  I have been really excited to post about this because it was exciting and beautiful but also extremely challenging.  Here is how it all began - about a year ago Adam took a hiking 101 class taught by Adirondack Mountain Club - also known as ADK (you see ADK bumper stickers all over the place around here).  Every year throughout the hiking season certified instructors will lead hikes of varying degrees of difficultly.  The levels of difficultly (D through A+, D being the lowest and A+ being the hardest) are assessed based on the elevation of the hike but not necessarily the terrain and overall level of difficulty; so the hike could be a C due to lack of elevation but could still be very hard. 

There are also the Adirondack High Peaks which consists of 46 peaks throughout the Adirondacks - many people challenge themselves to hike all 46 and from that point on are known as 46'ers.  We're planning on hiking at least one high peak this summer!  We are actually pretty luck here in the Capital Region because we have access to so many different mountain ranges - the Adirondacks, Catskills, Greens (VT) and Taconics (MA).  I consider myself a novice hiker - I never hiked growing up and just did a couple of outings last summer; slowly but surely though we are starting to do longer and more challenging hikes.  I have also started to acquire a lot of the necessary equipment - boots, gaiters, a back pack and a rain jacket - next up will probably be poles and maybe a pair of high top hiking boots.
So anyway - a while back ADK put out a list of upcoming hikes.  We looked at the calendar decided on a weekend where we didn't have much going on.  It just so happened that ADK was having a 'Waterfall Hike' outing that Saturday.  SOLD!  The hike was billed as a C+ on the scale of difficulty due to lack of elevation but we were told that we would be hiking about 10 miles and that it would take approximately 8 hours.  So the night before we laid out our hiking boots and clothes, packed up our packs and made sure that we had plenty of water.  The next morning we met up with the rest of our hiking group at 7 AM and carpooled to the trail head.  It took us about 2 hours to get from the meeting site to the trail head (including a stop for breakfast and one final bathroom break) and our hiking group consisted of 9 people - 7 women, 2 men with an average age (excluding me and Adam) of about 60 to 65.  Due to this we thought for sure it would be a slow hike but to be completely honest - some of those women kicked my butt!  Everyone on the hike was super experienced and at times I felt like I may have been in over my head.  It was then that I realized exactly how much of a novice I really was and just how much equipment I lacked.
Overall though the hike was great!  It was strenuous and at times very challenging.  We started out hiking next to the river and then within 15 minutes we would be high above it, only to be next to it again 15 minutes later.  We also saw some AMAZING waterfalls!  We ate lunch next to Beaver Meadow Falls and the hike climaxed when we reached Rainbow Falls (which was not an easy feat getting to).  Because we were high up in the Adirondacks the weather was very interesting - one minute it would be 60 degrees and I would be shedding a couple of my three layers but then it would begin snowing or hailing and I would need to bundle up again!  I wore everything from just a 1/4 zip jacket to that plus two coats and a rain coat.  Adam said I went through more costume changes than a Cher concert.  We also hiked over and through a bunch of different terrains including - snow, ice, water, rocks, downed trees, etc ...  And yes you read that right - snow and ice!  I was completely unprepared for that aspect of the hike.  At the time I did not own gaiters or micro-spikes, my hiking boots are low tops and I was wearing (thick) capries.  For a good portion of the hike we were hiking over and through a good bit of snow and at one point we were trudging through about 2 feet of snow!  I did have a mini-freak out at one point because it was so icy and apart of me was afraid I would slip and fall into the river (which was very, very cold).  In the end though everything turned out fine but Adam did say that watching me hike through snow was pretty much the equivalent of watching a baby deer on ice - it was sort of rough.
Once we reached Rainbow Falls and the 'hiking' portion of our hike was essentially over but we still had to walk about three miles back to the trail head.  By this time we were dead tired and even though it was a long walk back at least it didn't require jumping over streams, thrugging through snow or bush-whacking trail debris.  The hike was exhausting but so much fun!  I would go on another one in a heartbeat (properly outfitted for the conditions of course)!
Here are some pictures of the hike along with some recaps.  (I think we got some really great pics!)
 Rest area right before we entered the Adirondacks - welcoming us to the High Peaks!
Walking up to the trail head!

Great views already!
All set for the hike - wearing about four layers at this point - chilly!

We hiked the West River Trail along the Ausable River!

First bridge that we crossed.  Due to the melting snow and the huge rainstorm the night before the water was raging!  The rapids were insane and the sound of the water was so loud!

Walking across the first bridge!  Throughout the hike there were a ton of these wooden bridges - this one was definitely one of the most sturdy.

 View from the bridge looking downriver!
Hiking above the Ausable River - looking down onto another bridge. 

First waterfall and a bridge!

Close-ups of the first waterfall!


Adam on the bridge - crossing over the waterfall/river.

Me on the rocks in front of the first Waterfall!

Picture time - Adam and the bridge/waterfall!
Waterfall #2 - Beaver Meadow Falls!

Beautiful waterfall!

Adam in front of Beaver Meadown Falls
Not a little waterfall by any means - makes me look tiny!

We ate lunch next to Beaver Meadow Falls and while we were eating it starting snowing!  Between the snow, wind and mist from the waterfall, I was freezing!
After lunch we walked down from Beaver Meadown Falls and began our treck toward Rainbow Falls.  Gorgous view of the mountains from along side the river!

Taken from the middle of a bridge over the Ausable River looking up toward a dam and the mountains.  So pretty!

Me and Rainbow Falls!

The hike to get to Rainbow Falls was not that easy - we had to hike through snow, ice and sover ome pretty big rocks along a very narrow path.  On top of that the waterfall was so big and powerful that we were getting soaked from the mist!  With the exception of Niagra Falls this was the biggest waterfall I have even seen/been close to.

Love this picture - another one of me and Rainbow Falls!

 Me and Adam - more toward the beginning of the hike before we were totally exhausted and waterlogged.  Check out the moutain in the background though.  This picture is now on my bulletin board at work!

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