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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Where the Waters Fall

Such an incredibly diverse and rich world exists in the Adirondacks, from the barren rocky peaks of the tallest summits to the verdant forests and lush rivers that flow between them, the brilliant autumn colours and the stark frozen winter landscapes, on scales as large as the mountains themselves and as small as the microscopic plants, above ground and below, living or hewn from stone. Whether blessed by views from the summit or in the lowlands, along the trail or in the feeling of seeing the first peaks cresting the horizon, an unfathomable beauty lies here like nowhere else I have seen. In the rain or the sun, the snow or the wind, alone or in good company, that will never change.

Fitting of its name, Tabletop Mountain rises to a long plateau of a summit yet below the treeline. Across its ridge, the trail wound for half a mile or more before coming to the peak, an otherwise unassuming outcropping with a halfhearted view of Marcy and Algonquin. The guidebooks always claim that this is one of the poorer views afforded by the 46, but I did not mind. To me, there are no mountains unworthy of their ascent.

Before making our way to Phelps, we returned from Tabletop to Indian Falls, a waterfall that holds a welcoming view of Marcy silhouetted between the encroaching walls of the forest. When I first came to Indian Falls a few years ago, the water was nowhere near as strong as this trip, given new life by a particularly wet summer.

The path take a turn through the shallows of Marcy Brook whose crystalline waters paint the rock in spectacular shades of blue before plunging over the edge. Small rocks pebble the stream, throwing up the water in a cascade of light and silklike motion.

Over jagged stone the stream thunders like the hooves of horses suspended just barely above the ground in a world so easily overlooked.

Before taking their final turn down into the valleys and lakes beyond, the unassuming brook spills through the falls where it shatters on the rock below.

Time has such a mesmerizing effect on where these waters fall, lending them either the softness of the clouds above or brittle, jagged edges like splintered glass. Raw power rides on those innocent droplets, the power to sculpt the earth and tear through rock over the course of millennia. The water that gives life to so much along its way, the water that began so high up in the mountains, gathers together in a final showing of its true face.

After the nice reprieve, we were on our way once again. Back through the trails that led us to the falls, we wound our way towards the junction of Phelps.

At the top, all that remained of the marker was small hole drilled into the rock. As sad as it is, it is all too common for the brass markers to have been torn away by looters to sell it as scrap. Even here where time stand still, people find a way to destroy it.

All around the summit lay a collection of small rocks, either on the side of the trail of tossed into the bushes. To help preserve the way for those not yet finished, I gathered them and began to build a cairn at the peak.

Much unlike Tabletop, Phelps gives way to a great wooded basin stretching as far to the right as the eye can see, following down a valley towards the west. Marcy and Iroquios stand proud, while half a dozen other giants linger on the edge of the horizon.

This marks 15 of the 46 High peaks, and with it, one of the final opportunities I will have to journey here for too may years to come.

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