I have a fascination with bushwhacking and exploring something new, and who knows, maybe even previously uncharted. My buddy Jim has been itching to do the 3000 foot peaks in Hamilton County. I guess you could say we are perfect for one another. We found ourselves planning to meet up in Speculator one early morning a couple weeks ago, to set off on another adventure, this time we would find ourselves seeking out Macomber Mountain.
A couple days prior I had added Buckhorn to the day's plan, hoping to snag another large peak. But, as you all surely know, things change and they did at the last minute. It became apparent that I would have to delay the summit of Buckhorn and just settle for Macomber, as my daughter had a softball game that afternoon that I wanted to make. I knew we would be rushing the trip, but I had no doubt we would be successful. I hate rushing a hike, I prefer to smell the roses, so to speak.
Old Route NY8
We met up in Speculator and caravanned over to the southern end of Old Route NY8, a closed section of the current road; we would walk this for a bit. The road is paved and it certainly helped with gaining some distance fast, it was even a bit interesting to see the old guardrails on this historic route, so close to Austin Falls. We remained on the old route for about 1.8 miles to where Robbs Creek Road came in on the right. Come to find out, we could have driven to this point from the other side - we didn't even think it was an option, so we hadn't looked. No matter the circumstances, here we were. We had made good time and we would remain doing so on this gated, forest road. Robbs Creek Road would be under us for 1.1 miles, to just past the crossing of Robbs Creek. From here yet another old forest road would come in on the right named Hayes Flow Trail.
Robbs Creek Road to Hayes Flow Trail
We were unsure just how long we would stay on this trail, but we knew that it would be for quite some time. This old forest road would only be before us for about 0.2 miles, before it made a hard turn north and a narrow foot trail remained following Hayes Creek. We would need to use the foot trail. Hayes Creek was a wonderful flow, the deep greens of the mosses and wildflowers gave us a glimpse of color that we were waiting for over the long hard winter. The trail followed the creek, and while it did, the steep slopes to our left created many sections of wet terrain, possibly from spring-fed water sources. Antique corduroy was laid out in some areas, other spots we were not so lucky, we would have to rock-hop or wallow. Eventually we would cross Hayes Creek and start to hike away from the flow. Once across the creek we would climb steeply onto a shelf and into a lush green forest of chin hobble and beech saplings. The trail was becoming overgrown by their presence, but still easy enough to follow. At this point we didn't figure that we would need the trail much longer, and we would have to start bushwhacking the peak. Using my GPS I located a tributary of Hayes Creek and we used this to gain us easier passage through the forest.
A Macomber Mountain Bushwhack
Once on the tributary we would discover that it was actually a very easy walk through the woods. The forest was welcoming and open, and on a couple of occasions we even found remnants of an old trail that must have followed the drainage at some point; when and why would remain a mystery. We tried to follow the old trail, and on occasion would locate a cut log or a faint depression in the ground, but it wouldn't aid us any, so we just took a heading and followed the path of the least resistance.
The slopes steepened, and eventually we would have to leave the tributary behind us and start the aggressive climb toward the summit. We happened upon many very steep sections that seemed to be jumbled with loose rock and thickly grown in with red spruce, but most only lasted a few hundred feet. Most of the northern slopes were hardwoods and we took advantage of them and made up some lost time from the spruce entanglements.
It wouldn't be long from now that we topped out on this wooded summit of Hamilton County. Moose scat littered the top like malted milk balls in a chocolate factory; we hoped to see one, but it was apparent these were old remains. We dropped a bit to the southeast side of the mountain and found ourselves a nice little view where we had lunch with the native black fly population. The heat of the day was boiling at over 80 degrees, so the shade of the spruce was nice cover as well.
We opted to shorten the trip by heading down the south side of the mountain and hooking up with a hunting trail that was supposed to be over there. We had gotten the info from a gentleman in the area, but we were unsure of its value. As we descended we found several more open-ledged views to the east and south. The spine ledge would pose a wall that we couldn't get down, so we had to follow it until we could find a nice shoot or draw that we could manage. It didn't take too long, but it was rather thick up there, we wanted to get into the valley on the south side as fast as we could, back into the open hardwood forest.
We eventually made the leap of faith and found a steep duff covered descent area. It resembled more of a staircase of rock, but it got us down safely. Now in the open forest we moved without any form of resistance whatsoever. Eventually we were at the brook; at least we thought we were. The open forest and terrain had pushed us a bit further east and onto Macomber Brook, rather than the unnamed brook we were aiming for. Of course we wouldn't realize this until further down the line when we actually started getting further from the car, rather than closer to it. On a good note though, we did find a well-defined trail along its shores, the hunter's path perhaps. We used it of course. It would only help us move faster through the forest, and even better, we didn't have to think about our next move, we could just hike.
Back down to Auger Flats
The well-blazed trail would meander to and from the brook, but essentially stay above it most of the time. A couple of easy crossings were the only real excitement. Come to find out the path would exit us onto a snowmobile trail near Auger Falls, unfortunately over 2-miles from our car, but at least we were on a trail. Now approaching 85 degrees it was sweltering, and the open trail would tint our skin a shade of red before we were out. We were still making good time, even though a bit sluggish, and I was on schedule to make my daughter's game - that's what really mattered, the extra mileage wasn't that big a deal. All in all, it was a great day in the woods and we got to see some really cool stuff and take in some unique Adirondack views. Hamilton County really is a great place to be.