October 7th, 2016
In the wake of becoming a Forty-Sixer, there is a common course taken by most finishers — to conceive of ways to re-engender that lost sense of wonderment and awe the High Peaks once held over them.
For many, myself included, a chosen course is climbing the alternative trails to summits, purposefully or not, missed the first go round. One such trail long on my bucket list is the Scenic Trail up Sawteeth. In the High Peaks, the word “scenic,” by definition, means, rather patently, scenic — but peril is found in the connotation of “scenic” and that is unequivocally “harder”; such scenery ineluctably comes at the expense of ease. So far as I’m concerned, for a long time, the Scenic Trail was the only game in town. If you desired to climb Sawteeth, the Scenic Trail was the route you had to take. Sometime later, the more moderate Weld Trail would be cut. (For the sake of its climbers, it is a less “scenic” approach.)
One of many viewpoints that give the Scenic Trail its name.
The first time I did Sawteeth (incidentally the first time I ever hiked with Pat) the Weld Trail was our approach, up and down. Back then, the Scenic Trail, in my universe, was reckoned an anathema of the High Peaks. It had many of those scary wooden runged things called ladders. Along the way I overcame my phobia of ladders and the Scenic Trail and I made amends. It went on the list. To kill the suspense, the ladders were neither as sketchy nor plentiful as I feared they would be. To this day, the Beaver Meadow Falls trail, which connects Lake Road with Gothics, is, in my estimation, endowed with the most fraught assortment of ladders. I likewise made amends with that trail this past July.
With full anticipation of the fall color blazing the shores of the Lower Ausable, I set out on a day of resplendent sunshine. The Scenic Trail has several viewpoints — but it is a front-heavy dispersal. Most come towards the beginning, leaving viewless voids of cursedly rugged trail in its wake. The earlier viewpoints are interspersed by steep stretches. One excursion on the trail, Marble Point, offers a vertigo inducing view of the Lower Ausable. All that’s missing is a diving board, should I wish to plumb the depths of the lake with my moribund body. To the contrary, an AMR famous “Stay Back From The Edge, Don’t Be A Dropout” sign guards the edge.
Anyone care to try out for the Marble Point Diving Team?
This trail is either objectively difficult or an objective testimony to the state of my conditioning. To ensure the mental challenge is on par with the physical, Sawteeth has a “false” summit, well, truthfully, quite a few of them. When viewed in profile, the serrated looking edges, which give Sawteeth its name, are largely false summits. When you’re standing atop them, they cut through your spirit.
I eventually made it to the top of Sawteeth and could not retire to Lake Road without dropping by an old friend. The autumn sun shone in my eyes, backlighting the Great Range, as I rested on the popular ledge of Pyramid Peak.
As yet another hiking season draws to a close, I am lost to its reflection, of its transformative achievement and of its memories nestled in the hollows of mountains laid out before me. Much has occurred since I last sat on this ledge, but my eyes should never be spoiled of such a view.