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Hiking the Adirondack High Peaks

The Ticonderoga Historical Society has been the beneficiary of many wonderful gifts so far in 2017.  From the accession records we share a selection of gifts that have contributed to the enhancement of our  collections.   Furnishings:  — a  truly significant and historical piece ~~ John Hancock’s  dining table.  Prints and Paintings ~~ two important oil paintings: one a “Hudson River’ style landscape of Lake George;  and, secondly an oil portrait of Lucius Callender Larrabee (1799-1856) ~ one the earliest steamboat captains of the Lake George Steamboat Co..  ( Very appropriately as they are celebrating their 200th anniversary this year.)  Military Records and Artifacts: A large collection of military track and wheeled vehicles from the WWI era to today.  And adding to an existing major collection from the family of  Arthur and David Carr  consisting of photographs, manuscripts and artifacts another bountiful gift of around twenty family journals.  (Before turning over this collection the family had the journals  professionally digitized. A digitized file copy is included with the original journals.)  All of these gifts were presented to the Society from family descents.

We are very appreciative that each of these families have chosen the Ticonderoga Historical Society to be the depository for, and stewards of, their family treasurers. In doing so they have made available these unique pieces of history to be enjoyed by future generations for public enjoyment, while assuring that each will be available for future historic review and research.

Earlier this year we recognized a Ticonderoga native,  Grace Leach Hudowalski, for her major contributions to promoting the Adirondacks.  Grace was the first woman to climb all 46 Adirondack High Peaks.  For several decades she was one of the central voices of the Adirondack Mountain Club and the principle contact to thousands of climbers that hiked the Adirondack  high peaks.

To follow up on this theme, we would like to share from one of Arthur Carr’s recently donated journals his recordings of a Adirondack High Peaks hike he shared  with another Ticonderoga native, Walter Johnson.  They took the hike in 1926:

Monday, Sept. 20, 1926 ~~

Like thousands of other mornings of other mornings before and since began with promise of clear sky only to yield to an early impulse and furnish clouds.

To Walter Johnson and myself clouds on this day were a disappointment for with food and blankets on our backs we were seeking the first high spots of a trip through the country of high spots.

With our packs we were carried into Heart Lake Sunday afternoon where we spent the night in the open camp shown here, whose only fault other than those common to open camps was the straw on which we were supposed to sleep.  In June mayhap the straw was cleaner, fresher and less dusty.  Certainly there was ample opportunity for it to have been.  Hart Lake seemed to be an outpost of Lake Placid Club.  A place where the city worn could get away from traffic, and rough it as much as comfort would allow.

Journal Photo – Arthur Carr

We mustered very little sleep and daylight dispelled even that. A fire was soon made which meant coffee and bacon. By six o clock we were on the trail leading up over Algonquin, the third highest peak of the Adirondacks. At first the sun shone brightly, glancing in level rays through the woods and across the trail. Mr. Hedgehog was also early astir on the trail where he kept just ahead of us for a while. He was the largest one I ever saw or perhaps he seemed larger because of his spreading his quills as a turkey gobbler spreads his tail. The protection this afforded was fine. From the rear at least.

The trail here leads up the valley of the Mac Intyre Brook through a country swept by fire 15 to 20 years ago. We remarked several times how many ages it would take for nature to erase the marks of horror from the landscape. Clouds gathered as we gained some height, in fact after we entered the evergreens above the line of the fire were enveloped in mists so that we had not an iota of view the rest of the way to the summit.

This picture of W.J. was taken as we began to enter the clouds and shows in some measure the heavy growth of conifers and the dark mistiness of the forest. On Algonquin, as on all the Adirondack peaks more than 4500 feet in altitude, the timber does not extend to the top which is a mass of badly weathered rock having every crevice filled with moss, sedge, or scrub spruce.

Walter Johnson

On Algonquin we stood at last and not a thing could we see but near rock and fog. All the evidence that our eyes could gather would prove but that we were on a rocky mound only a few feet above the rest of the cloud covered world. Everything reeked with moisture. The rocks were clammy. The depressions on there tops were full of water freshly distilled from the clouds. We did all there was to do, namely hung around wishing for a clear sky. Suddenly as if a giant hand had flung back the curtain the clouds just in front of us parted. Instead of the level rest of the world we looked down 2000 ft. at Lake Colden and the Flowed Lands glimmering darkly there way, way below. Such a quick change of perspective almost made us dizzy. It was somewhat like a chasm half a mile deep suddenly opening at ones feet. We stood entranced with the beauty and grandeur of it. Masses of cloud, white as steam poured up through Avalanche Pass. Grey clouds were shooting up over the whole length of the McIntyre range, curling and spiraling as they swept down into the great valley. The fragments that reached the other side were again raised by Mt. Colden and his companions to join the mass that obscured all the distant view. Only a few minutes could we stand there exclaiming. The clouds soon became thicker until even old Algonquin’s height failed to cut them through, then our curtain closed and all was level and misty again. For two hours we waited in the fog for another view but in vain. At times the cloud blanket would become very heavy giving us little freshly made showers. At others we could almost see the sun through and hope would spring eternal.

Heart Lake & Algonquin

Getting down from Algonquin was harder than getting up. On the bare rocks of the summit the feet of travelers had left little mark. Here the trail was marked by small piles of rocks which the fog made hard to find. It was case of find the next before losing sight of the last or we would have been in the paradox of being lost on the bare peak of a mountain. In the dense scrub which we soon entered the path was easy to follow in fact it was impossible to travel anywhere but in the path.

We were both agreed that the trail down from Algonquin to Lake Colden was the worst that we had yet traveled. Steep, wet, muddy and rough, without the compensation of beauty except for rare views of the stream we followed or of Mt. Colden as show. At this place a little more than half way, down the trail led out onto the smooth granite bed of the stream then unoccupied except in a small way in the center. Evidence was plenty however of a springtime fullness that swept everything before it.

But even this awful trail held much of interest. As usual the effect of altitude upon vegetation was very noticeable. The spruce ranging from foot high scrub near the top to magnificent specimens at Lake Colden.

This snap was taken in the deep forest just before we reached the shore of Lake Colden. There is something fascinating about these dark mossy woods. They are so dwarfing to man, so silent, so full of the mystery of growth. A true lover of the woods would no more shout or be uproarious while in their shade than he would in the aisles of a cathedral.

“Colden” a small and beautiful lake we reached about 3:30, having found that the clouds we were wishing away on the summit extended only a couple hundred feet down and that not a drop of rain had fallen on the lower country. Here we could look back at old Algonquin, serene in his proud loftiness and see the clouds still sweeping over his crest.

Mt. Colden being lower its peak was free from clouds most of the time, only the lower wisps dragging over the bare summit. One of these wisps I caught in the act with the camera as is here evident.