This weekend, I did the Seward Range, the 4 furthest most west high peaks. This area is actually slightly familiar to me as I worked at a summer camp not far from there when I was in my teens. I also had hiked Ampersand mountain, which is just north of the Sewards, when I was 12, camping at that scout camp my first time. These being the furthest west, that also meant they took about 3 hours for me to reach, unlike everything else I've done that has been 2-2.5 hours. I went up via Indian Lake, Blue Mountain Lake, Long Lake and Tupper Lake, the latter 3 being tourist areas, and definitely were seeing their holiday crowds. My hope was that this being one of the more remote areas of the park for high peaks that it would not be that crowded. Well, that's not what I found. When I signed the trail register, it looked like a half dozen parties for camping were signed in. When I signed out around 1230 this afternoon, another 2 dozen or so parties had signed in after me. Granted, compared to Adirondack Loj which holds a hundred or so cars, and the Gardens which holds around 50 cars, both of which were full by 8 Friday morning, the full parking lot and a dozen more cars along Coreys road it wasn't that full.
Backpacking in on Friday was not bad. I hit the trail about 4:30. The trail was easy to moderate, and I was able to do the 4.6 miles in about 2 hours. I found a campsite around Blueberry leanto, had dinner, and then went to bed where I woke up a dozen or so times throughout the night for no obvious reason.
Saturday, I was up at 5, had breakfast, and on the trail up Seward a bit after 6. The trail reviews were not wrong. Most of the trail up was reasonable. The last half mile though was almost all scramble. It reminded me of a slightly longer version of what I faced between Giant and Rocky Ridge peaks. I took my time, and was eventually up to the top around 8:30. I continued on to Donaldson, the next peak in the chain. This was not bad with a couple small scrambles and rock hopping down Seward, and a couple scrambles up Donaldson. The trail just skirts the top of the mountain. I had to divert off it and up a boulder to see the sign around 930. Then it was a relatively easy walk over to Emmons around 1030. Overall, Donaldson had the best veiws. Coming back, I decided that the Caulkin's Brook trail would be better than scrambling down Seward. This meant climbing up Donaldson again and turning off about 0.2 miles after the peak. This was a good choice. This was by far one of he nicest trails up/down any of these mountains I've come across. No scrambles, almost 100% dirt with very little rock hopping.... but it made what could have been an 8.4 mile day into a 13 mile day.
Sunday, I was again up at 5 and on the trail by 6. Seymour was a bit further away from where I camped, which meant that half my hike was on nice, relatively flat land. Then I had 1.4 miles to gain 2000 feet.... yes, that is considered steep. It wasn't as bad as it sounded though. There were 3 or 4 good sized scrambles on the way up, and definitely about 0.4 miles of steep trail. The payoff was worth it though, having peaked about 8:30. The peak itself was treed in, but with some height you get a nice view of the park. The better view was a rock outcrop that looked over Ampersand Lake and mountain, plus Seward, Donaldson, and Emmons. I then hiked out and was back at my tent about 10:15. I quickly packed everything into the pack and then was on my way out by 1045, reaching the car once more about 12:45.
I finally got home about 4. When I went to take a shower, I found that my pack left a perfect mark outlining the back pad with chafing. There was again a little under the arms too. Not horrible overall though, but it will take a couple days to get over it.
In total, I hiked about 27 miles, hit 4 peaks making it 15 this year, 22 all time.