Giant Mountain

Somehow I convinced myself that the 4626 foot summit of Giant Mountain in the Adirondacks would be a good place to take some photos with a camera hanging from a kite. Yesterday I walked up there with two kites, three cameras, two KAP rigs, 1000 feet of line, and one sandwich. I think it might be possible to fly a kite up there sometime, but most of the time the wind on a mountain peak is not just blowing horizontally, it is moving up slope. This was obvious when I easily got the delta kite in the air from the summit and it tried to fly into the wind, over my head, and down the slope behind me. I realized that kites are designed to fly in wind that is perpendicular to gravity. When this geometry is lost, erratic behavior results, and the kite landed in a tree twice. Fortunately the trees up there are not much taller than I am, but after fifteen minutes I packed the kite away and tried to salvage my pride by taking a handheld panorama. The kite episode was photographed by a woman whom I met again four hours later at the bottom of the mountain and gave my email address to. So maybe someday there will be a photo here of me trying to fly a kite from 4600 feet.

The summit offered a great view of the steep bedrock slopes that were exposed by landslides after five inches of rain fell on June 29, 1963. Last year I visited the distal end of the debris flow where boulders the size of Mini Coopers had piled up around 400 year-old spruces. From above, I could see the mile-long valley that the saturated debris had followed. This valley is not very steep, and it is hard to imagine how rocks and trees and mud and water rolled that far. Some traveled another half mile and blocked Route 73. A great account of the event was published last week in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. It describes how the debris had diverted Roaring Brook into Putnam Brook and eliminated the scenic Roaring Brook waterfall. It was the middle of tourist season, so within a couple of weeks a crew had built a wooden structure to return the flow to the waterfall.

Part of the 1963 slide area in the west bowl of Giant Mountain.

Part of the 1963 slide area in the west bowl of Giant Mountain.

The course of the debris flow along Roaring Brook.

The course of the debris flow along Roaring Brook.

Click to enlarge photos
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On the way down the trail I made another handheld panorama from 3800 feet looking toward the southeasternmost peaks of the Adirondacks. I assume the exposed rock in the foreground, like most other exposures, was covered by vegetation at some point during the Holocene, but a big rain storm washed it away, maybe more than once. I should have taken some photos of the huge crystals and resistant dikes in the billion year-old metanorthosite in case any geologists wanted to identify the feldspar or garnet or other stuff. But my legs were actually too tired to stoop down for a close-up.

On the way up I took a few photos of the newly emerged American toads that were clogging the trail above the Giant’s Washbowl, a putative blackwater kettle pond. I saw about a hundred of these miniature toads, so there must have been many thousands of them trying to learn how to be terrestrial. I saw a huge toad several hundred feet above the pond, so there might be an instinct to migrate up the dry, south-facing slope. I guess the strategy has worked so far.

One of many toadlets that were trying to avoid Vibram along the trail.

One of many toadlets that were trying to avoid Vibram along the trail.

The Giant's Washbowl with Noonmark Mountain in the middle distance at left

The Giant's Washbowl with Noonmark Mountain in the middle distance at left

A thin layer of soil and roots sits atop the bedrock which is exposed here by the trail.

A thin layer of soil and roots sits atop the bedrock which is exposed here by the trail.

User maintained cairns guide hikers across the rock.

User maintained cairns guide hikers across the rock.


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The big lesson for the day is that the next time I climb one of the Adirondack’s 46 four-thousand footers, I will leave the kites behind and take more sandwiches.

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