“Sorry, Mom” Crows Loop in the ADK

Sorry, Mom...

This is the adventure report version of an apology to my wife. Let me explain. My wife, Steph, is very, very good to me. She enables my running….hobby…and is supportive of the adventures I take the boys on. She trusts me, but lately I have been less than considerate of her worries about the safety of our kids. Steph grew up with two sisters, and her childhood did not involve….well, things I’m not going to detail here to avoid giving Aiden any ideas. In general, I had intense fun skateboarding, skiing, snowboarding, running, swimming, and biking with all the neighborhood kids. A few weeks ago, I took Gav on a hike in the Adirondacks. We had a great time, but there were unintended consequences.

We try to get back home at least a couple of times each winter to go hiking in the Adirondacks, and this weekend we had already hiked most of an icy Noonmark and I took Gav scrambling around the Cascade Slide where we finally found some good ice to swing our ice axes at. Steph doesn’t really understand our fascination with ice axes, despite the fact that she is the only one of us who has actually ice climbed, in a glacier. On Sunday, we were all going to hike the Crows loop, which is a 6 mile ridge top loop right across the street from the cabin we were staying in. We started the hike all together, but even with traction, the extensive ice was aggravating Steph’s sore back. We turned around, dropped Steph and Aido off at the cabin, and then Gav and I headed back up to the trailhead. I was looking forward to the family hike, but I also enjoy my adventures with Gavin as he gets stronger and faster each year.

He is now a wicked strong climber with the endurance of someone far older. Not just physical endurance, but mental and emotional endurance. Considering my low tolerance for whining, I may appreciate the emotional endurance most of all! Based on what I knew of the Crows hike, a 6 mile loop with moderate elevation gain, and the conditions, I estimated it would take us about 3 hours. 

We started out at a decent pace, but Gav did seem a little tired from our hikes the day before. The conditions on the first climb up Big Crow were moderately fast, but as we got further out onto the main ridge, the snow got deeper and there were no tracks at all. There was little risk of us getting lost by taking the wrong trail, as there was only one trail over the ridge top loop, but the trail was challenging to follow at times. We lost time due to snow, missing turns, and a number of icy ledges where the ice axes did actually prove to be useful. Some of the descents were slow going as well due to the ice. It all added up to slow our progress.

The trail itself was great; extremely narrow singletrack through thick pine forest and up and over scenic rocky summits and outcrops where the wind was ripping to the point it was hard to stand. Despite not being far from Keene, the fact that no one had been on the trail made it seem like we were many miles from civilization. Gavin and I were both enjoying all the rock and ice scrambling up the numerous ledges across the ridge. They were just tall and technical enough to present some fun climbing without any sort of substantial risks.

While I was aware we were not making great time, I didn’t realize how slow we were going until I was not able to get cell coverage to call Steph. I let Gavin know we were running late, and he just took his coat off, put his head down, and hammered up the last climb, which was actually the second to last climb. The trail seemed as if it would never descend back to the valley leading to the trailhead.

When we finally got to a mileage marker, we still had 2 miles to go. I was shocked. We were already extremely late, and I had no doubt Steph was worrying about us. I told Gav we were going to have to run the last two miles, and he was in his Bogs snow boots. No complaints. He ran anything that wasn’t significantly uphill all the way back to the trailhead. That was the longest 6 miles I’ve ever done; it was like a black hole. We signed out, ran back to the car, and headed back down into Keene. 

By the time we approached the cabin, Steph was almost at Jan Welford’s house, where she was going to ask him to go out and search for us. We had been gone for about 5 and a half hours and it was getting dark, so I wasn’t surprised at all at how concerned she was. I am usually good about estimating time or calling if I’m going to be late. I’ve even called from the top of Mount Lafayette at the end of a 12 hour day in the White Mountains. Gavin and I had a great hike, but it wasn’t worth the stress it caused Steph. Sorry, Mom, we did not mean to make you worry. Next time, we’ll make sure to bring you along!