Mts. Gray, Marcy and Skylight Backpack
By Mike Boisvert.
Jon and I spent nine days peak bagging 13 peaks in the Adirondacks for our 2006 vacation. We started our hikes beginning September 17 with Tabletop/Phelps and ended with Big Slide on September 25. Our slogan was ‘Thirteen Peaks in Eight Days.’ We had so many great adventures. I ed one of my favorites during our backpack segment: Gray, Marcy and Skylight.
Johnny R., Katahdin (Johnny’s dog), Mark L. and Tom C. had met us at the Upper Works Parking area at 0900 the day before for our planned backpack up Uphill Lean-To. As we prepared our packs we observed how perfect a day it was. The sky was a perfect shade of blue, temps were in the 60’s, the humidity was low and there was the occasional breeze. We left about 0930.
The trail was muddy in some sections. We made it in no time to the suspension bridge. We took some time at the bridge to take pictures of each other walking across. It was hilarious watching Johnny’s dog, Katahdin crouching low and spreading his legs as he tried to cross. Soon we pushed on we had a decent climb ahead of us.
Before long we had made it up to Lake Colden. Johnny decided that he wanted to check out the southern end of Flowed Lands to determine if the lean-to’s in this area would be a good place for our last overnight for our hike to Mt. Marshall on our exit. We had lunch here and agreed that the views here were great.
On the way up to the Lake Colden Dam there was much water on the trail. We were surprised how badly maintained this section of trail was. It was wet! It was around this time that it began to drizzle. We easily found the cairn that identified the herdpath to Mt. Marshall.
We made it up and across Lake Colden Dam when the drizzle turned to rain. The trail began to fill up with water fast and became very wet. The trail began to follow the Opalescent River. The waterfalls came into view making this leg of our trip more enjoyable despite the rain. At one point we gazed down into a beautiful flume in the Opalescent River. At this point, I was starting to get wet and quickened the pace to our destination to Uphill Lean-to.
We finally made it to Uphill lean-to and were pleased that we had it all to ourselves. The lean-to was beautifully built by the 46er organization. Our first priority was to shed our wet clothes. Uphill Lean-To is strategically located to not only launch a trip to climb Gray/Marcy/Skylight, but  Cliff/Redfield as well. Our stoves were turned on, Tom’s delicious vodka mix was passed around and we quickly made ourselves comfortable for our 2-night stay here.
The next day we awoke to a beautiful day and made our way up to Lake Tear. My last time on this section of trail I was climbing Gray and it was raining. I was amazed by the views we had this time. At Lake Tear we took a snack and enjoyed the views. Marcy towered behind it, a sight that I was robbed my last time at this lake. The skies were a crystal clear blue. With much anticipation we climbed up to Gray.
We headed across the outlet and up the herd path. We were pleasantly surprised to find the summit so quickly. When we arrived at the summit we noted some views. We found the very faint herdpath beneath the spruce trees that led to Mt. Marcy and decided to take this approach up.
It was late morning and we were making good time. The spruce trees were soaked with water due to the rainstorm the day before and it did not take long for me to get completely soaked leading our group through. The folks behind me were lucky since I was basically knocking off the water for them making it drier. The herdpath was very difficult to follow and one had to pay attention. However even if we lost it, Marcy was always in our sight so we could have made our own way to the summit. The going was slow and it was not fun to hike. We finally reached tree line and bare rock. I turned around many times to soak in the views on my way up. We took our own paces to reach the summit, as this last stretch was the steepest. I caught up to Jon and we were at the top. Wow!
Even with all the instructions to stay off the vegetation it is obvious that people still tread on it. Even still, the views were great. Our clothes were wet and it was breezy so it did not take very long for us to get cold while eating lunch. We did not spend much time on the summit. We shared the summit with about eight people. We took our pictures and headed down the Calamity Brook Trail.
At the Skylight-Marcy junction we headed up right to Skylight. The trail up the mountain was essentially a stream but still easily hiked. It still seemed longer than the .5 miles stated on the trail sign at the last junction. Once above tree line the spectacular views began to open up. I was very happy to have returned here on such a perfect day. We had the large summit all to ourselves. The areas of rock interspersed with the patches of alpine grasses and alpine blueberry bushes give this summit a very wild feel. The views were amazing. Marcy and Haystack are close by with the upper Great Range stacked up behind and in between the two. Below is a great view of Panther Gorge. Dial, Nippletop, Colvin and Blake are all visible. It is a good perspective of the Colvin range and a good indication of how difficult a traverse of it would be. Behind that, Giant and most of the Dix range can be seen. To the west Redfield, Cliff, the McIntyres and Colden can be seen. Even the Santanoni range was clearly visible and an interesting slide could be seen. I would rate these views as some of the best from any peak.
We took a ton of pictures and began our descent off of Skylight. Once back to Four Corners we pumped water to fill up our water bottles.
In no time, we were back at Uphill Lean-to arriving around 1700. It was the perfect day with the perfect company.
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