Sunday, December 27, 2020

Nye and Street Mountains Plus Mt. Jo

I have slowly worked on the Adirondack 46er High Peak list of mountains over the past 18 months that I lived in the Adirondacks. With 36 of 46 peaks climbed, I was eager to knock a couple more off the list.  After my icy outing on my last High Peaks trip, I hoped that  a few minor snow events made for better conditionsby covering the ice  

I set my sights on Nye and Street Mountains.  The two mountains are some of the shorter hikes among the 46er High Peaks.  I didn't want to commit to anything too long in case the conditions were less than desirable.  I set out the morning of December 23rd.  This day offered at least a chance at some clear skies to start the hike.

The Adirondack Loj is the typical starting point for those headed to Nye and Street.  Parking at the Loj requires a $15 fee.  To save some money, I parked at the end of the South Meadow Road.  This added an extra mile at either end of my hike.  

I began walking around 745AM.  Clear skies overnight brought a chilly start.  It was about 8F when I left my house and felt about the same when I started hiking.  Within 15 minutes or so, I reached the Adirondack Loj entrance and the extra distance served as a nice warm up.  

The trail begins just before the gate house at the Loj.  Initially the trail passes buildings on the Loj property on a wide and level trail.  Soon the trail passes Heart Lake.  A couple of short trails lead a few feet to overlooks along the lake.  The lookouts provide nice views of the the higher terrain.   

View over Heart Lake

Beyond the spurs to the lake, the trail passes a sign in book before reaching the first junction of note.  I passed a couple here also headed toward Nye and Street at this junction. Following the Old Nye Ski Trail for a couple minutes brings you to the end of the officially maintained trail.  At a sign post with a 33 on it continue straight rather than continuing toward Mt Jo.  Although unmarked, the trail is easy to follow.

Follow Old Nye Ski Trail

A couple inches of fresh snow fell the previous night.  Although the tracks from the previous day were covered, the trail impression was slightly visible and easy to follow.  The trail trends downhill as it makes its way toward Indian Pass Brook.  Indian Pass Brook can be a problematic crossing.  No bridge spans the relatively wide brook and it flows deep at times.  I wasn't 100% sure on how easy the crossing would be.  I hoped that recent subzero nights and the chilly start to the day left the brook frozen solid.

Enroute to Indian Pass Brook

I soon reached the brook.  Although water could be heard and seen at a few spots in the brook, the trail crossing appeared to be pretty solid with tracks from previous day hikers.  I started across and the ice seemed solid.  About 2/3rds of the way across, the ice creaked but didn't appear to lose any integrity as I made it safely across.   

Frozen Indian Pass Brook

Beyond the brook, the trail enters a meadow before starting a gradual climb.  With snow and no tracks, I almost missed the turn away from the meadow. No markers blaze the route and most cairns were hidden under snow 

Meadow just beyond Indian Pass Brook

Much of the route follows close to creeks.  I came to another smaller creek crossing.  The ice seemed much less reliable at this crossing, but a large, downed tree, provided a safer passage.

Downed tree bridging the unsafe creek

The lower reaches of the route travels through open hardwoods.  The forest looked rather pretty with the unspoiled snow.  Quite a few animal tracks, mostly snowshoe hare, dotted the landscape and often the trail.  The trail indentation usually kept route finding to a minimum despite a couple inches of fresh, fluffy snow.  The route continued to follow small creeks.  When the route crossed or traveled on the creek banks, sometimes the path was slightly less obvious and required a little more vigilance to stay on course.

Hardwood forest

As I gained elevation, I left the hardwoods.  Unlike the hardwoods, the spruce and balsam trees held loose snow.  At times I couldn't avoid brushing into the snowy branches on narrow sections, wearing quite a bit of snow.

Transition to coniferous forest

The trail climbs gradually for a mile or so after Indian Pass Brook before getting steeper.  Generally the trees block the views.  At least one section provided a descent clearing to get at least a partial view.

A view at higher elevation

The trail gets pretty narrow at times and the snowy branches sagged pretty low from the snow.  Although never deep, the snow appeared fluffier as I climbed obscuring the trail indent completely.  Hiking in winter has its advantages.  With the snow cover, the tread is nice and smooth. Roots and rocks disappear.   Most of the ice flow on the trail was covered as well.  I never even felt the need to put on my microspikes.  

The trail gets narrow as it climbs

Trailside ice

Blowdowns and a narrow path

The route levels after climbing upon reaching a flat clearing.  Even with unbroken snow, it was pretty obvious I reached the split for Nye and Street.  On my return, I noticed at least one tree had an arrow and Nye scratched into it.

The side trail to Nye travels less than a 1/4 mile.  The terrain rolls a bit before climbing modestly to the summit.  At 3,895', Nye doesn't reach the magic 4,000' mark to be on the 46er list.  When originally surveyed it was thought to be at least 4,000'.  Later surveys showed it was quite a bit shorter.  Nonetheless, it remained on the list to stick to the original, traditional 46er list.  According to the current elevation survey, Nye only ranks 50th in height in the Adriondacks.  It's summit offers little besides a sign on a completely wooded summit.

The lackluster summit of Nye

Even without the view, the hike to Nye was rather pleasant and fairly easy, in the unspoiled snow at least.  The snow covered trees provided a beautiful setting.  A short distance before reaching the summit, an open area provides at least partial views toward Street and part of the MacIntyre Range.  At least it did for a few seconds before the clouds dropped and brought the visibility to zero.

Pleasant forest on Nye

Not much to see in the clouds

As I dropped from the summit, I passed the pair I saw earlier, now headed up Nye.  Back at the junction, I headed toward Street, now only .6 miles away.  Although the higher summit, the route to Street seemed to climb minimally.  Other than an occasional rocky spot, it was never steep.  

Passing a glacial erratic enroute to Street

I reached Street's 4,166' summit quickly.  The summit of Street is just as lackluster as Nye's summit.  Although I had to wander a little bit, I found some partial views a couple minutes from the summit.  Unfortunately Mother Nature didn't cooperate.  A few breaks in the clouds opened up to catch glimpses of the MacIntyre Range.  The views were short lived however.  I ate a snack while hoping to get a longer break in the clouds, but it never happened.

High point of the day

The MacIntyre Range peaking out of the clouds

I dropped from Street and passed the duo from Nye and another pair with a dog before reaching the split to Nye.  The descent back to the valley went by quickly.  I managed to get a better view from the one clearing on the descent.  I passed one more pair as I neared Indian Pass Brook.  

A clearer view on the descent

Looking down Indian Pass Brook

Another look across Heart Lake

I originally planned to call it a day, but made it to valley much quicker than I expected.  I decided to climb Mt. Jo.  I never climbed it before.  The 2,876' peak stood only .7 miles from my route.  It's part of another hiking challenge called the Lake Placid 9ers.  I figured I'd climb it at some point and this seemed like a good time to check it out. 

Despite its modest elevation, Mt Jo is a rather rugged little peak.  I climbed the most direct route via the Short Trail.  It gained 700' in only .7 miles, so it was rather steep at parts.  Steep stairs bridged the worst areas, but the terrain was rockier and more consistently difficult than either Nye or Street.

Rocky trail to Mt Jo

Icy cliff along trail to Mt Jo

More icy cliffs

Stairs/ ladders heading toward Mt Jo

Given its relatively short distance and proximity to the Adirondack Loj, I passed quite a few groups on Mt. Jo, many of them with smaller kids.  Even though it stands more than 1,000' lower in elevation than Nye or Street, Mt. Jo's rocky summit is bare with excellent views into the High Peaks Wilderness. The round trip added only 40 minutes to my day.    

Heart Lake


Indian Pass

View from Mt Jo

Barely visible Algonquin

Mostly frozen brook along the road

Climbing Nye and Street from the Adirondack Loj covers about 8.4 miles according to the High Peaks Trails guide.  Starting at the of South Meadow Road and adding Mt. Jo, my hike was just shy of 12 miles.  I was surprised that it only took 5 1/2 hours start to finish.  The rocks, roots, and mud weren't and issue like they are in the summer and the snow made for quick travel.

Elevation profile of the route

I'm told Nye and Street are muddy and wet in the regular hiking season.  Given that the views are minimal, I don't think they are anybody's favorite High Peaks.  While I won't rush back to hike them again anytime soon, I thought the hike was rather enjoyable. I'm accrediting that to the easy winter conditions and fresh snow on the trees.  I forget about the pleasures of hiking in winter, especially when the conditions are good.

I brought snowshoes along but never passed through anything near deep enough to wear them.  Since the route wasn't really packed or icy, I didn't find my microspikes necessary on Nye or Street.  With more traffic, Mt. Jo held more ice on the trail. 

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