The Santanonis July 7th: Interesting, peaceful and stunningly beautiful.
Monday, July 08, 2013
The Santanonis July 7 2013.
In preparing for the Santanonis, I expected my hike to be long, wet and trudgy. While the Santanonis undoubtedly lived up to that part of their reputation, I also found them to be interesting, peaceful and stunningly beautiful. As a quick summary, we hiked 3 High Peaks, covered 18 miles and ascended and descended over 4000 feet.
I was very excited to have ben invited to hike with a few people. . This being my first time in the Santas, I was incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to hike with Brian, who not only has hiked the Santas a few times, but who also likes hiking this particular range. I think we can all agree that a positive outlook can make a world of difference on the trail.
I met Chuck bright and early in Malta (3:00 a.m. to be exact), met Pru at 4:00 a.m. and met up with Brian at the trailhead at 5:30.
The early part of the hike was rather uneventful. It was warm and humid for the early morning hours, but nothing unusual for a July morning in the Northeast.
We had a few creek crossings and before we knew where at the intersection for the Santa Express Trail. The plan was to hike Santanoni first, then head over to Cooch and bag Panther on the way out. I have always wanted to do the Santas in this order, because I figured a surprise visit to Saint Anthony would work on the way in, and then do the trek to Cooch. Panther is so close to Herald Square that I knew I would be able to convince my body to climb it no matter how tired I would be.
The hike to Santanoni was exactly what I expected: A little steep in sections, some interesting scrambles and a little mud. The funniest part of this part of the hike was the Hilary Step. Really? I would love to know the reasoning behind the naming of the scramble. I found it to be a bit exaggerated. Go over it or around it. Either way, it was not a huge obstacle.
After admiring the views from the false summit, we turned left at the cairn and stood on top of Santanoni at 10:30. We took a short break, but were cognizant of the fact that we were planning on two more peaks. By noon we were back at Time Square and by 1:45 we were on top of Cooch. I have to say that parts of the trail were a bit swampy. One time I had to wiggle my foot out of the mud pretty carefully, or the swamp would have kept my boot. I have read a lot about how demoralizing it can be to descend that far to go to Cooch, to then just have to reclimb it on the way back. That part really didn’t bother me. I just figured it was part of the ups and downs of hiking three peaks. The summit of Cooch was beautiful, we took some pictures, had a snack, hung out for a bit and headed back.
By 4:10 we were back at Time Square, and enjoyed a quick , cooling rain shower before we headed over to Herald Square and started our ascent of Panther. Panther has a great chute we got to go up. Overall, my muddy caked boots had some issues giving me the traction I needed, but the chute posed no problem. The last part of the trail before hitting the summit is very eroded. Unfortunately, this being a trailless peaks, I am not sure how that problem can be solved without compromising Panther’s integrity as an unmaintained peak. The whole day it had been cloudy. We had some views off Santa’s false summit, but overall the mountains were shrouded in clouds.
We were incredibly lucky with the weather, in that the temperatures were bearable, the sky was overcast with some sunny periods, we encountered little rain and no storms. Black Flies made their appearance a few times, but they were not a game stopper. When I reached Panther’s summit at 4:45 I looked up, and saw how the clouds had cleared out and left us with the most stunning view of the day. The view off Panther was one of my favorites. Maybe it is because we worked so hard for each summit. Incidentally, Panther was Chuck’s 35th, Pru’s 31st and my 30th High Peak. As far as Brian is concerned, I am not sure of his exact number, but I know he is well into triple digits.
After enjoying the view for a bit, we headed back. By the time we were back at Herald Square I had gone through 132 oz of my camelback electrolyte drink mix and 28 oz of coconut water, which probably was somewhat in part due to the humidity.
I was looking forward to filter water at Panther’s Brook , which we decided to do. We were watching some storm clouds moving in, and we all felt that standing in water during a thunderstorm would not be the most optimal place to be. I finished filtering my water (I filtered 100 oz) and reorganized my backpack a bit, after which we were on our way out.
The trail down Panther Brook reminded me a lot of the trail I had hiked near Lake Arnold. Rocky, rugged, beautiful.
The hike out was fairly uneventful.
We absolutely lucked out with the weather. In addition to this, here is what I found: I was ready for wet, trudgy and long and found this beautiful, peaceful place. We only ran into four people all day. I did more than survive the hike. I loved it. Bringing plenty of water and my water filter, good food and great company with a wonderful sense of humor and the right equipment all contributed to the success of the hike. Having Brian and his experience with us was incredibly comforting. The hike was a great Adirondack sampler. We encountered rocks, mud, water and scrambles. We worked well as a group. The Santanonis are going on the list of mountains I will hike again.