Sawteeth, Short and Sweet

Order in Ranking:  35

A few weekends back (I’m late getting this up), Steph and I set out to climb Allen, with the Santanoni Range as our Plan B.  We parked at the trailhead, and slept in the car, as is our custom when hiking some of the outer-lying High Peaks.


5:00 rolled up way too early, and we hit snooze a couple of times.  When we finally did get up, it was blacker than black outside.  The forecast had been calling for rain, and it looked like it was going to be right – thick, dark clouds obscured the sky.  We debated the wisdom of starting out on Allen, or even the Santas, in what was promising to not be a very good day.  Plus, we really didn’t feel like getting out of the car to eat, change and get our gear together.

 

We eventually decided to drive to the Sawteeth trailhead at the St. Huberts parking area, near the Ausable Club.  We still had Sawteeth to climb, and though if nothing else that would make a good Plan C.  We had no idea how long it would take us, or how far the hike was, but we had a map, and we’ve been down the trails by the Ausable Club often enough that we felt confident we’d figure out where we were going.

 

We drove along the I-87, and the clouds cleared enough to give us a glimpse of….red sky.  I don’t know if you know that saying, but Steph and I both do – “Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning.  Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.”  We figured the red sky was not a promising sign, and were glad that we had decided not to attempt our Plan A or Plan B.

 

We parked at the parking lot up the road from the golf club, and got our gear together, greeting one duo of hikers headed out, and chatting with another duo who pulled in around the same.  The four of us set out, as the clouds dissipated and the sun came out.
Hiking off down the Lake Road
We reached the trail register, and manager to confuse the ranger at the station by replying “Sawteeth” and “Dial” when he asked where we were going.  We quickly explained that we were two groups going in two directions – we had no plans to climb both Sawteeth and Dial.
We set off down the Lake Road together, the other two breaking off when they reached the trail to Dial.  They mentioned that if the weather held and they were making good time, they would try for Nippletop as well.  Steph and I continued along until near the end of the Lake Road, to the cut off for Sawteeth.  We did have a few moments of “which trail marker colour again?”  and “let’s just pull out the map” but we knew the trail we wanted was close to the end of the Road, so we kept going, eventually find the path that leads down to the dam – it’s the last trail on the right, about 20 steps past a trail leading off to the left.
Morning view from the dam
 At around 8:40, we took a quick break on the far side of the dam, enjoying the sun and the warm temps – taking off a layer, and lamenting that we had given up too quickly on our plan to hike Allen.  It was shaping up to be a good day.  We quickly headed back off, and took the quick route (not the scenic route) up Sawteeh – if it did start to rain later in the day, we wanted to be well off the summit and on our way back to the car.  We had another moment of “Um..which way do we go?” When we saw that sign post just after the dam – to the left the sign said “Sawteeth via Scenic Trail” and to the right “Rainbow falls” and a third sign pointing straight on that just said “Gothics and Sawteeth.”  We took a chance and went straight on – turns out we were right.
The trail was easy to follow, and we walked in silence for a while, just enjoying being outside.   My last hike had been with Steph and a group of 4 others up Gothics, Armstrong and Upper Wolf Jaw, and Steph had done Marshall with 3 others not too long before, so we were both eager to have some quiet time out on the mountain.  We rock-hopped across a couple of streams – the water level was low and they were easy to ford.  The trail itself started off at a moderate grade – typical Adirondack steepness, with various parts that were slightly steeper, and various parts that were a little flater. 

Just after we hit the lookout for Rainbow Falls,  clouds began to roll in again, making it somewhat dim under the trees.  We commented on how if the clouds held, it would seem dark a lot quicker on the trail, and it was a good thing we weren’t out doing a long hike, like Allen or the Santas.  This trail was just as quiet as we’ve heard both Allen and the Santas are – we only met a few other people – perhaps two or three groups – in total on the trail.  It was a very quiet day out in the Adirondacks.  Given that this Saturday was forecast for rain, and the next day was supposed to beautiful, I’m not surprised other people held off on their hikes.

 

 

Not using the tree to climb, just to pose
 We hit the col around 10:10, and we stopped for another quick break and snack.   We were happy to see that it was only another .6 miles to Sawteeth, and were a little disappointed that the weather wasn’t going to cooperate for a quick jaunt over to Pyramid, but figured that could always be left for another hike.  Our snacks helped kick us back into gear, and we headed off to hit the summit.  The temperature was cooling off, and the cloud cover was a bit thicker than it had been.   We continued our climb, up and over a few open patches of rock that were very easy to rock scramble up, before coming to what we assumed was the summit.  I went a little further down the trail, but saw nothing else that came close – there was a sign that said “…” one way and “Lake Road” the other, and the distances matched up with those in the guide book, so we decided that that had to be the summit.  We sat down to eat some lunch, and watched the clouds blow in and over the summits of Pyramid, Gothics and the other high peaks.

 

 

There are peaks in there….somewhere
The wind also picked up around this time, so we hurried through our lunches and photos (making sure to snap a few of the clouds obscuring the other peaks) and back onto the trail.  We had to put our long sleeve shirts back on, to ward against the chill.  We hurried down, meeting only one group on their way up (doing a loop with Pyramid, Gothics and Armstrong).  As always, I managed to slip and slide my way down the rocks, although only ended up with one small scratch along my knee.
What a difference a few hours make!
We hit the dam and stopped for another quick break – pulling out the rest of our sandwiches.  As we sat, a large group of people (about 10) walked by, and into the forest.  At that was when the rain started.
We quickly packed up, headed over the dam and up to the Lake Road, as the rain began to pound down.  We were glad to be at the Road portion – there was no way, no matter how bad it got, that we could lose the trail.  Plus the trees along the road provided a bit of shelter (if not as much as we would have gotten on the trail.)  We marched along in our own worlds, just making for the car and getting as wet as a person can get.
We signed out, noticing that our hiking partners from earlier hadn’t signed out (we assume they headed towards Nippletop), and hoped that they would be back soon – the rain had let up somewhat, but it was still cool and wet.  We slogged our way to the car, and managed to get changed in the front and back seats, staying dry.  We threw out wet clothes into garbage bags, glad to have though ahead.
In all, it wasn’t a good day to hike Allen or the Santas, but we still have them hanging over our heads.  As for the “non-scenic route” – it was incredibly pretty and fun to hike.  It wasn’t a slog (as most of the hikes that we have left are) and it quiet.  There were no “ladders” to scramble up, but a few short rock scrambles that were fun.  It was a great short hike that I enjoyed, and would probably do again just to see what the view really looks like, when it’s not obscured by low-lying clouds!

These boots were made for hiking…
Total climbing time: 6 hours 14 minutes

 

Left parking lot at: 7:15,
Signed in at register 7:30, signed out at 1:44 returned at 4:42

 

Summitted Sawteeth at 10:40
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