This was actually Sunday's hike...but I was away enjoying the scenery.
I am not sure if you've ever been to St. John before but I highly recommend it. 2/3 of the island is a national park, totally undeveloped except for some long standing land holdings from before the time of the park. Most, if not all of the park land was donated by Laurance Rockefeller. We flew into St. Thomas and while waiting for the ferry to St. John, I spotted this liftline:
The ferry ride over to St. John was a nice, rum punch filled, 30 minute boat ride through some of the smaller Virgin Islands, including Jeffrey Epstein's infamous Little Saint James Island.
They are experiencing a fairly severe drought down there and, as a result, the stream and waterfall that usually runs down alongside the hike was dry. We also opted to arrange for a pick up at the end of the hike instead of hiking back up the same or another nearby trail, probably about 1000 vertical feet. Call me a wuss, but I think you'll understand this decision based on the photographs to come near the end of this TR.
After descending a well worn, rocky trail for a bit shy of a mile or so, we were able to get our first glimpse of Reef Bay, which is in the distance and for which the hike is named.
After about another half of a mile or so we came to a side trail which is called the Petroglyph trail, which you guessed it, leads to some really cool petroglyphs:
After walking the short 1/4 mile back to the main trail, we continued our descent down the last 3/4 of a mile or so along a slightly wider and smoother trail that passed through numerous old sugar cane plantation ruins. The trail culminated at the old Reef Bay Sugar Mill ruins:
After exploring the ruins for a bit, a short walk through the brush led us to a stunning quartermoon shaped beach. After a little time for a refreshing dip, we made our James Bond exit with the help of this small launch which picked us up on the beach.
And brought us out to a larger speedboat which wisked us away past a few miles of national seashore and some amazing private homes perched on the cliffs overlooking the most azure colored water one's mind could imagine.
Fastpacking in the Glacier Peak Wilderness on Monday and Tuesday.
Glacier Peak from a camp just above Buckcreek Pass
This zone in the GP Wilderness was a complete weather anomaly. High elevation snowpack was just a bit below normal last season. Currently, both the Spider Glacier and Lyman snowfield have pretty smooth surfaces. If you don't mind carrying your gear 10 miles, you could earn some sweet turns here.
Very cool Nepa. Great to see that you're taking advantage of the amazing outdoor opportunities where you live. When you think of all the people that live so close to incredible wilderness and scenery in the PNW (and all over the west for that matter) who never leave the shopping malls on the weekend, it makes me think "what's wrong with these people?"
The PNW looks amazing still considering how poor the snow was at lower elevation, upper looked pretty well covered from the photos I have seen. Some truly epic scenery there - incredible photos too.
We are primarily flatlanders in the summer as we like the beach - beach with mountains would be awesome but, we have to go to either Northern Maine or Vermont/Upper NY for that. The views of Champlain are pretty amazing.
Here is what we have been up too -
Nice to have friends with boats - fast ones too....
We stuck close to home on Saturday to enjoy Saratoga's two state parks. In the morning, we went over to Moreau State Park (less than 15 minutes from home) to hike the Western Ridge trail above the Hudson River. The trail climbs about 700 vertical feet from the river to follow a ridgeline for nearly 6 miles. Parts of the ridge remind me of the Shawangunks more than 100 miles to the south, with a mix of rock ledges, pines and oaks:
There's a series of overlooks along the ridge, this is the western-most overlook. The Hudson is backed up behind the Spier Falls dam at this point:
After the hike, we went in to the more developed part of the park where there's a beach and campground. EMS was having a SUP demo day, and we paddled a bunch of boards around (and eventually bought a pretty sweet board).
Saturday night was the ballet gala at SPAC, in the Saratoga Spa State Park. My wife Beth and I have gone to the gala just about every year for the past 10-12 years. I'm not gonna put on a tutu and start prancing around, but the SPAC ballet season is pretty impressive - I mean it's the NYCB so the music and dancing are absolutely world class. There are fireworks immediately following the performance, and then partying until well past midnight.
Did the short hike up The Pinnacle today in Bolton Landing. The Pinnacle is the Lake George Land Conservancy's latest addition, the trail officially opened just last month. There's an amazing panoramic view from the top:
The views were as spectacular as ever yesterday from the top of Chimney Mountain.
But we weren't there for the views, at least not entirely. We had hiked Chimney earlier in the summer and done some exploring into Eagle cave, the largest cave in the Adirondacks. On that trip, we had gotten to a point where a rope would be needed to explore further, and turned around. This time we came prepared.
It turns out that our first visit to Eagle cave barely scratched the surface of this extensive, fascinating cave. In the photo above ^^, Sylvie is at the bottom of the roped drop that had turned us back last time. The bluish rope is mine, the knotted greenish rope is a fixed line of questionable integrity. The drop is only 15 or 20 feet, but it's a mandatory rappel. And it's an awkward rappel, the kind where the best you can hope for is a hip check and shoulder smear as you negotiate the drop below the large chockstone boulder at the top. Instead of having the kids rappel, I lowered them, which made things slightly easier. Off to Sylvie's right lies a huge fissure (creatively named "The Fissure"), deep and narrow and 70' tall. To her left is the entrance to the "Bat Room," a large open room where bats hibernate from roughly mid-October to mid-April. The Fissure is a dead-end, but the Bat Room leads to more passages and rooms below.
As you can see in the photo above, the Bat Room was filled with mist, as relatively warm air from the entrance and Eagle Hall above meets cool air from the rooms below.
We poked around the Bat Room for a while, then settled on a promising looking passageway to get deeper into the cave. That passageway was a vertical corkscrew, just wide enough to drop into without having to remove my knapsack, that dropped us down yet another level to a series of passages and rooms below the Bat Cave.
The air became noticeably cooler. There were numerous passageways and rooms to explore, and we actually split up for a short while, the kids exploring one lead and me another. We knew that the "Ice Room" still lay somewhere below us, where ice is said to persist into mid-October. Sure enough, as we poked into various worm holes that led further into the cave, we encountered ice still lining some of the rocks. Daniel picked up a small chunk that had fallen to the floor:
At this point we had been underground more than 2 hours. We wanted to get deeper in, but the passageways we found that might lead to the Ice Room were narrower (think belly crawl) than we wanted to squiggle through. Plus there were other rooms and passages we had noticed on the way down that we wanted to check out. So we made the decision to start heading back to the surface.
I knew it might be a challenge getting the kids back up the drop we had rappelled. I had left our rope in place, figuring I'd toprope the kids up one at a time. That arrangement proved awkward due to too much side-pull, so I free climbed up (using the knotted fixed line and the sketchy webbing you can see in the pic below) and belayed each kid up. Our kids have been rock climbing for several years, so I knew I could trust each of them to put on their own harness and properly clip into the rope with a locking 'biner, even 7-year-old Sylvie. I know that some parties bring some sort of rope ladder along to negotiate the drop (up and down), but our procedure worked quite well.
Once on top, all that remained was negotiating the length of Eagle Hall, ascending a short (15') 45-degree slope (there had been a fixed line there when we visited previously, gone now), and wiggling out the narrow cave entrance. Daniel shows the exit technique:
All told we had been underground for three and a quarter hours. We didn't get all the way to the Ice Room, but I think we'll probably come back once more this season. The cave still holds lots of secrets we haven't uncovered yet.