In our continued trek to get our High Peaks lists matched up this summer, Mark and I got together to tackle Big Slide Mountain, but it’s not enough to just bag the highest mountains, so we added the less visited Yard Mountain and made a loop out of the day!
We started out from the Garden Lot around 7:15am, and even though it was lightly raining, I was excited to help Mark add a new one to his list. Plus, Big Slide is one of my personal favorites and if the weather cleared up, we were going to be in for a treat – the views from the summit are incredible!
Last year, when Greg and I climbed Big Slide for the first time, we did the standard counter-clockwise loop – up The Brothers and then down the Slide Brook trail, so this trip I was glad to find out that Mark wanted to hit Yard Mountain as well. With the knowledge that Yard was a wooded summit, we choose to hit that mountain first in order to (potentially) end the day with amazing views of the Great Range and the Johns Brook Valley. With the plan in place, we started off towards the JBL to begin our journey!
The first ~3.5 miles of the hike roughly follows Johns Brook on a gentle trail that is more like a nature walk instead of a rugged ADK hike. While on this trail, you can expect to see a number of little water crossings, some lean-tos and other primitive campsites, as well as other hikers heading to-or-from the JBL. Today was no different – although, we did get very wet as the light rain turned into a constant soaking as we were making our way towards the Johns Brook Lodge (JBL).
Just before we reached the JBL, we saw a bridge crossing over the Johns Brook and decided to check it out. Once on the bridge, we looked around a bit and saw some pools that looked like they were man-made — we made note of this in the video, but if it was sunny and we had more time, this would have been a really nice place to sit and relax with our feet in the water. I haven’t had the opportunity to stay at the JBL yet, but seeing this area really makes me want to plan at least a night out there soon 😉
After looking around a bit, we got back on trail and headed to the JBL, where we found a group of hikers getting ready to head out on their adventure for the day. We chatted for a bit, and they informed us that the weather was supposed to change for the better before much longer. Obviously, this was really good news, however we didn’t want to sit around too long for the rain to make us cold, so we said our goodbyes and continued our walk as we made our way up the Klondike Trail.
The Klondike trail *can* bring you from the JBL all the way out to South Meadows, but (based on the growth of vegetation on the trail) it’s not a popular route. We had no troubles following the Red trail markers until we reached the well-marked junction with the Yard Mountain trail. At this point, it was still raining, so we didn’t hang out too long before heading up the mountain. As we climbed, we commented on the quality of the trail — it didn’t seem excessively steep and was quite enjoyable. At one point, the rain stopped, but the trees continued to drip on us and the wind picked up a bit, so we were getting a little chilly.
We saw a few neat features on the trail up Yard (like water coming out of the mountain and down a rock slab), but overall it was very straightforward and quiet walk to the summit. The summit of Yard Mountain is very unassuming – it came up on us quickly (it seemed like all of the sudden, we were at the sign showing the distance to Big Slide), it is fully wooded and has no views. We stopped for a few minutes, took some pictures and video, got an apple and looked around some of the spur trails that lead away from the main trail. We were hoping one of the spur trails would lead to a ledge so we could check out some views, but we decided to not travel too far off of the beaten path.
Very shortly after leaving the summit of Yard, we came across a sloppy, wet, muddy bog that was ~75 feet long. Mark and Daisy went first and took the right path option over downed trees and brush. Mark’s poles sunk more than a foot in one section, so it could have gotten really gross if a foot were to slip in. After watching the long way, I decided to go to the left where I found a wider log in the mud and used that to cross fairly quickly; however, in my haste, I misplaced a foot and *splarglurch* sunk to my ankle in cold wet Adirondack mountain mud. Oops! At least it wasn’t as bad as the Santanoni Range 😉
The trail between Yard and Big Slide was pretty easy and the ~1.5 miles between summits went by super quick. One of the neat things that I noticed coming up to Big Slide’s summit from Yard Mountain was that it isn’t super obvious when you’re about to reach the top. We were climbing up a small rock slab and could see blue sky ahead of us, and then KAPOW! you’re looking across the Johns Brook valley at the Great Range.
We had the summit of Big Slide to ourselves for a few minutes so we could enjoy the sun and breeze, and take in the views in relative silence. As we were taking it all in, we were joined by a trickle of other hikers – all of whom came up either over The Brothers or via the Slide Brook trail. We all sat around and chatted — telling stories about previous Adirondack adventures and comparing notes on hikes. What I thought was really cool was people kept asking me to point out the peaks that they were able to see from Big Slide. Without sounding pompous, I have to admit that my familiarity with the profiles of these mountains has grown to the point where I don’t need a map for too many — that’s a really good feeling!
After more than an hour of chatting with folks, eating some food, drying out, and relaxing with my shoes and socks off, it was time to start our trek down over The Brothers and back to the Jeep. The first part of the descent is fairly steep – down a few big slabs of rocks and a couple of ooooooold ladders (seriously, it may be time to replace or retire them completely … I’m not sure they meet even the most relaxed safety guidelines any more). This was the only section that I was slightly concerned with Daisy’s ability to get down, but she totally rocked it — she may be part mountain goat!
There’s a nice little offshoot trail to the right once you get down the first steep section that let’s you get out right next to the big slide that gives this mountain its name. The sheer size of the slide and the drop down into the valley from this point is very impressive … and a little scary. I checked this out last year, so I let Mark scoot across the narrow path to take a gander and he took the picture that we’re using for the video — super awesome!
We continued the descent down to the junction for the trail to return to the Garden Lot over The Brothers, or down to the Johns Brook Valley via the Slide Brook trail. As I mentioned before, we wanted to make a complete loop of the day’s trek, so we turned left, made our way over the Third Brother and onto the delicious part of the adventure …
Once we reached the Second Brother, we found wild blueberries growing along huge sections of the trail’s edges. The sweet taste of fresh berries was a really nice treat on top of an already awesome day. We continued to eat the wild berries as we made our way over the Second Brother and onto the First Brother, where we stopped for nearly 20 minutes picking berries for the three of us.
From the top of the First Brother to the car was approximately 1.5 miles of constant decline, and our feet were beginning to feel the pain of the day. Mark doesn’t usually have too many issues, but even his knees were aching a bit on our walk out. Figuring the day’s amazingness was behind us, we put our heads down and just beat feet back to the lot.
When we were very nearly back to the Jeep we crossed over a small stream where Daisy stopped to get a drink. As we were waiting around, I heard a snap in the woods and looked. I was surprised to see a doe walking through the brush and stopping to sniff or nibble. She was between 75 and 100 feet away and just hanging around without a care in the world. Thankfully, Daisy hadn’t noticed her and we got to watch for a few moments before she made her way deeper into the forest and out of sight. That was a truly great way to end another amazing day in the mountains!
After the deer left us, it was less than 5 minutes to the trailhead, where we signed out of the register, refreshed a little bit, and started the road trip home with sore feet and high spirits!
Distance: 11.18 miles
Height: 4,018′ (Yard), 4,240′ (Big Slide)
Party: Jay, Mark (& Daisy)