Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thinking out loud, the Great Range Traverse

Storm above the Great Range from the Brothers.
Winter storm over the the Adirondack Great Range
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” - T.S. Elliot

I've been planning to do a Great Range traverse this summer for some time. Ideally it would be early to mid September under cooler temps. However, with Aim being away and Caney's death anniversary in late July, I started thinking it would be a wonderful way to honor him.

Last summer, on the 1st anniversary of his death, we paddled 13 miles upstream on the wild Oswegatchie River to his favorite swimming section, spreading his ashes for the first time. We then hiked deeper into the Five Ponds Wilderness and spread his ashes at two interior ponds. He loved being in the wilderness more than any human I know, so it was fitting he was released back to some of the most remote wilderness in the eastern US. Spreading more of his ashes over the 8 summits that make up this immense day hike would also be fitting for Wonder Dog.

At the same time, it will be a good way to knock out one of the countries hardest -if not the hardest- loop day hike out with my next generation trail dog. Sort of a remember the past, live for today type thing.

For a long time, I wouldn't even consider traversing the Adirondack Great Range or White Mountains Presidential Range in summer for two reasons. 

  1. Anyone with two legs and a little fortitude can complete either hike in summer. 
  2. I hate the heat and dehydrate incredibly quickly.

I drink about 1.5-2.0 gallons a day and still lose several inches off my waist. while hiking Dogs, especially black ones, do poorly in summer heat as well. There comes a point where you have to either drop off the spine of the Range to get water, or carry enough to last the day. At 8 pounds per gallon it starts getting pretty ridiculous.

Normally I filter my water as I go, never carrying more than 2-4 liters when possible. Often I get by with as little as 1.5-2 liters between water sources depending on the temps, humidity, terrain, distance and confidence in the source. Unlike the Presidential traverse, there are no water sources, and no places to buy milk, cookies and dog treats. Nor do you get a reprieve from mother nature to enjoy air conditioning at some summit building, or get a foot massage while hiking the Great Range.

However, while the Presidential traverse might be easier due to more bailout and water options, it's a lot tougher on a dogs paws. And since we tried and failed at the Presidential traverse last spring, I felt it was time to put the more paw friendly one in the bag, even if it meant being quite ordinary and doing it in the summer.

Still, I've got some serious reservations about the water situation this dry summer and it is going to require an unseasonably cool day, along with a 4am start for us to have a fair chance at completing it. Perhaps we are being a little ambitious in the timing.

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