The hike: Haystack and McKenzie Mountains (failed), and Baker Mountain
Total distance: Haystack/McKenzie: 3 miles, Baker: 1.8 miles
The Saranac 6 is a hiking challenge in the Adirondacks that started in 2013. The goal is to climb all six peaks for a patch; if you do it in winter you earn a winter patch; if you do it in 24 hours you get an “ultra” patch. More information on the challenge and its history here. These peaks are all below 4,000 feet and don’t count towards your 46-er status, but many of them are challenging in their own right.
Our long Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend started out as a bit of a bust. With a terrible wreck on 87, we arrived in the Adirondacks in time to get an adequate amount of sleep, but instead found ourselves in the midst of a 30-inch snowfall. Because of this, it took us a lot longer to get around the Adirondacks to our Airbnb. We had an experienced winter driver on our side (special kudos to Sonic!), and his car was equipped with snow tires. Had we been in all-season tires, I’m pretty sure we’d have been walking quite a bit to get to our Airbnb! We didn’t end up getting to bed until about 4 am, and we had planned to do three summits the next day. We knew now that that wasn’t happening, so we planned to do Haystack and McKenzie since going in from the Jackrabbit trail makes these peaks pretty accessible and isn’t that terribly long of a hike.
We got a late start around 12:00pm after allowing ourselves to sleep in a bit. This was Amy, Axel’s, and my first time on snowshoes, so there was a bit of a learning curve. We’d rented MSR lightning ascent snowshoes at REI, and found the buckles to be quite bulky. They’d also given me the incorrect size in snowshoes, so I was lugging around in 25s—which to my size 6 foot, felt a little like lugging around bricks.
Acting on advice from our Airbnb host, we decided to take the Jackrabbit Trail going west to east—it was about 1 mile longer round-trip than our original hiking plan, but the trailhead had a designated parking lot and was quicker to get to than driving around to the east side. We traipsed into the woods, and were about a mile in when we came across a river we couldn’t cross. Saranac Lake had gotten a lot of rain in the past couple of days, and the bridge was iced over and underwater. On the opposite side was about two feet of six-inch deep rapidly rushing water. Backcountry skiers had just come across it, having come across the Jackrabbit trail from east to west, and they were towards the end of their hike, so getting their feet wet wasn’t as terrible for them as it would have been for us. We fiddled around it for a while, trying to find a better place to cross, and in the end made the difficult decision to turn back.
Defeated and facing a quickly upcoming sunset, we opted to climb Baker next, just so we could get in at least one peak that day. Amy (who had 22in snowshoes) and I swapped, and I was much happier in the 22s. Baker is only .9 miles one way, so it’s quick and easy ascent. It’s steep in some places, but never much of a challenge, and probably ties with Haystack (from the herd path) as as the easiest Saranac 6 climb. We made it to the top in time for sunset, and had a beautiful 180-degree view over Saranac Lake and its surrounding mountains.
We took our celebratory Rumchata shot on top of the mountain (Sonic’s first with us—welcome to the team!), and headed back down. Sadly, the steep parts weren’t steep enough for good butt slides, but I certainly made a business of falling down quite a bit!
We got to bed early that night, ready to take on St. Regis the next morning. Check out my post on that here.
How we got there: My friend Sonic drove us up in his car, which was super handy. He had equipped his car with snow tires which really helped out with the rough and icy winter road conditions we faced. I spoke to some people in the area that said that all-season tires would have sufficed, but at this time of the year I’d be weary of going without proper snow tires.
Where we stayed: We stayed at an Airbnb dubbed The Doctor’s Inn. Guys—they dug our car out for us in the morning. It was amazing. I can’t speak highly enough of these people. They also ran a sound healing practice out of the downstairs of the farmhouse, and we participated in a session, which was super relaxing.