Thursday, I hiked the Santanoni range starting around 645. The hike starts with an old forest road that has a couple washouts, but nothing bad. When you get to the trail, the first half mile or so was amazingly good. You see a sign why shortly in, it's the site of active trail crew work, so I expect this trail to get better over the year. Overall, the marked trail is easy to moderate. The only really bad spot is the half mile before you reach the Santanoni herd path where you're rock hopping up a stream.
The "Sanantoni Express" herd path was a quite enjoyable hike and had some lovely views of the valley below. There was only one bad scramble, the so called Hillary Step that you can go around with a little difficulty. I made it to the top of Santanoni about 1000, 5 miles in. The path across the ridge to Panther was also pretty good, not many views though. I got to "times square" where all these trails come together and I started up the trail I thought was for panther only to check about 100 M in and find no, it wasn't. Going back and taking the right trail, it was a very short and easy hike with one small scramble to get on top of panther, about 1115. Just before the peak, you get the views of the hike. Absolutely beautiful.
Then there was Couchsachraga or Couch. This was a disappointing peak. As it is the lowest of the 46'ers, at 3820 feet, it's almost not worth it. The trail down from Panther was good, with really one bad scramble. You then come to a bog between the mountains. It was only 100-200 feet across and there were plenty of logs that have been added in over the years so it was easy to get across, if you had poles and took your time. Climbing up from there, you come to a few places where you think you're at the top, but no. It just seemed like the peak that never came. When you finally get there, it's treed in, but if you're tall and standing on the boulder that is the top, you can get a couple nice views. I got there about 1315.
Hiking back out was interesting. Sometime on the way up Sanantoni, I seemed to have done something to my left hamstring, it just felt tight. Coming down Couch, I realized I did something to my right knee. I put a soft brace on that knee and got up to times square again no problem. Going down from there via the Panther herd path, that was slow. This was rock hopping down a stream for about a mile. Not unusual or bad for an Adirondack trail, but not pleasant with a knee and leg yelling at you. The last 1/2 mile or so of the trail was rather gentle on the legs. I finally got back to the marked trail, and headed out. Once I got past the trail is a stream section, I was able to pick up the pace, and was back at the car at 1800.
Overall it was a good, but long day at 15 miles.