The last four peaks needed to complete the 46er challenge were in the rugged western part of the Adirondack Mountains near Tupper Lake. These also happened to be one of the most challenging ranges due to the long hike, difficult terrain, and elevation gains of over 6479 ft! After much research and planning, I decided to make the final four peaks as an overnight backpacking trek with my son Mathieson and his rescue dog Rocky. The reasons lay in the sheer length and other outlying factors based on experience and extra time needed to make this an epic adventure.
Another factor with all adventures is paying close attention to the weather forecast and being prepared for the many unknowns in the wilderness. The weather on June 4th and 5th looked just about perfect, with lows in the 40s at night and sunny in the mid-60s during the day. While reading the reviews, we also knew that it would be extremely muddy and that we would have had tons of insects following us along the way. This prompted us to bring two pairs of gators, which is an impermeable layer that covers the top of your boot and ankles, preventing mud and debris from getting in. The other key item was a portable MR300 Thermacell mosquito and bug Repeller that repels insects within a 15 ft diameter.
It was about 8:30 am when Mathieson, his dog Rocky, and I arrived at the Seward Range trailhead carrying our 30 lb. packs, including all our overnight gear. The 5-mile hike through the Blueberry Foot Trail to the Ward Brook Trail was a gradual incline into the main trails that intersect Seward Range, Standalone Mountain, and Seymour Mountain. We knew that we needed to hasten our pace if we were going to set up camp and then attempt to climb the Seward Range peaks. After about two hours into the camping area, we reached the Ward Brook, a conveniently located freshwater stream that aided us with refilling our water supply.
We quickly set up our tent and unpacked all our overnight gear to lighten our packs and only carry the essentials. This strategy allowed us to drop around 20 pounds of gear, including a canister full of food. Our campsite set us up to have a perfect spot to come back to after a long hike up the Seward Range to rest, eat, and have easy access to Seymour in the morning.
Around 10:45 am., we headed back to the trail, finding the turn-off to Seward easily enough using the All-trails app and our map for a backup. The hike up Seward was extremely challenging, steep, and rocky, with seemingly endless mud pits along the way. Although Mathieson and I struggled a bit on the terrain, Rocky was like a little billy goat bounding up and down obstacles with ease. There were only a few scrambles that we needed to give him a boost up. The rough terrain up Seward was certainly worth the effort as the views from the top were breathtaking. We only came across two other hikers on our way up, then over to Donaldson, and then a mile up and over again through endless mud pits and boot grabbers. This hike was certainly one of the most challenging of all the ranges due to the terrain, mud, and unmarked trails. All and all, it took us over 8 hours to climb to the top over Seward to Donaldson, then to Emmons, and back over them again and down to our base camp at around 7:30 pm.
Although we were tired and covered with mud, we smiled at one another with sheer excitement as we reached the campsite. We still had about 30 minutes of daylight to spare, so we quickly cleaned up in the stream and started a fire with the dead wood we found all around us. As Mathieson tended to Rocky and the fire, I started cooking our freeze-dried chicken and dumplings. You might think these are not very tasty, but we were pleasantly surprised by how awesome the meals were. Freeze-dried is the way to go because the meals are lightweight and easy to prepare. I used my Jet boil stove to quickly boil water to add directly into the packaging. The fuel and nutrients were much needed after burning through a ton of calories and energy. Rocky was equally happy with his kibbles and then a nice dip in the stream. After dinner, we talked about the day and more about life and the lessons learned in the Mountains. My son and I formed a renewed and special bond on this adventure with lasting memories of the challenging and epic reward of accomplishment. After talking for a while by the campfire, we decided to rest for the long day ahead of us.
We woke up to another beautiful day with a cold morning of about 38 degrees. After a brief fire to warm our bones, we didn't feel rushed at all. We had plenty of time to eat a light breakfast, fill up all of our water reserves with our filtration system and pack up our gear in the tent for an easy exit later that afternoon. We placed all of our food into the bear canister and hung it up in a tree in order to avoid attracting any unwanted visitors to our campsite while hiking.
After tidying up the campsite and putting out the fire, we quickly headed toward the Seymour trailhead and started our journey up. Our legs were certainly feeling the effects of the prior day's hike, but all in all, we felt good with our decision to make this a two-day journey. The hike up Seymour, in my opinion, was much steeper and more technical than Seward. The uneven terrain full of jagged rocks and foot-tripping roots was daunting, to say the least. My son was having a bit of a hard time with the scrambles, and we needed to take extra precautions with Rocky as well to make sure no injuries occurred.
All in all, the ascent was very long and challenging to the top. While reflecting on the long climb up Seymour, I had a flood of emotions that ran through my mind and body. I was overcome with a feeling of happiness and contentment, knowing how blessed I was to have the opportunity to complete the last peak for the 46er challenge in the company of my son Mathieson and his dog Rocky. When we finally reached the top of Seymour Mt., I felt the aha moment of accomplishment and sheer joy of completing the challenge.
After resting, having some snacks, and taking it all in, we decided that we should celebrate with a nice meal at the Big-Slide brewery in Lake Placid. This mindset created a new energy for us both, along with the perseverance to steadily make our way down the steep mountain to our campsite. We made it to the campsite at around 2:00 pm, made quick work of packing up our gear, and headed out that last 5 miles to the parking area. The last leg of our 5-mile journey out seemed like forever, especially with the extra gear and our tired legs.
The drive to Lake Placid took about 30 minutes but was well worth the extra miles for a delicious meal and a few cold beers to celebrate. In the end, the trip turned out to be an amazing experience, and life-changing for my son as the Mountains command one's respect and give one a huge sense of accomplishment when completed.
After two long years, I have finally completed my goal of becoming an Adirondack 46er. Although the challenge is now complete, my journey of hiking to help support nursing and allied healthcare education is far from over. I would not have been able to be successful with these challenges if it wasn't for the support from my wife, Susan, family, co-workers, and friends. They encouraged me along the way and have joined in on efforts for new hiking challenges to help support the education and well-being of others along the way. Stay tuned for the next hiking challenge as we plan to invite and support others to join us from our organization who have a similar passion for the great outdoors and wish to help us bring more awareness to our cause.
See David's entire journey towards his goal to climb all 46 Adirondack High Peaks on the 46er Challenge Page.