Adirondac Adirondac, Sept-Oct 2014 : Page 24

MYSTICAL, REMOTE, The Secrets of Panther The gorge has become my home away from home. The more secrets it reveals, the more I‘m intrigued. P spread. anther Gorge —mystical, remote, and romanticized since the 1800s by the area’s first explorers—is an area of idyllic beauty and violent natural changes. The area lies nearly nine miles from the nearest trailhead, set between the steep slopes and sheer cliffs of Mt. Marcy and Mt. the gorge from afar, but may find it intimidating to contemplate an inti-On the lighter side, it hosts tranquil streams, expanses of forest floor Haystack. Those who have hiked the mountains are likely familiar with mate exploration. made of mosses, and enough stone creations to keep any photographer or backcountry mountaineer happy for a lifetime. Spring evenings and early mornings are filled with the songs of hundreds of thrushes and warbler s, their fluty tunes resounding off adjacent cliffs while wind brushes the slopes nearly 2000 feet higher. In juxtaposition are the often violent changes within. Blowdowns, torn streambeds, and large rock falls are commonplace. The gorge has become my home away from home. The more secrets it reveals the more I’m intrigued. In this brief “walking tour,” beginning with the center and then moving along Hay stack and Marcy’s flanks, inset numbers correspond to the aerial photograph on the following 24 Adirondac

Mystical, Remote, And Romanticized

Kevin Mackenzie

The gorge has become my home away from home. The more secrets it reveals, the more I‘m intrigued.

Panther Gorge—mystical, remote, and romanticized since the 1800s by the area’s first explorers—is an area of idyllic beauty and violent natural changes. The area lies nearly nine miles from the nearest trailhead, set between the steep slopes and sheer cliffs of Mt. Marcy and Mt. Haystack. Those who have hiked the mountains are likely familiar with the gorge from afar, but may find it intimidating to contemplate an intimate exploration.

On the lighter side, it hosts tranquil streams, expanses of forest floor made of mosses, and enough stone creations to keep any photographer or backcountry mountaineer happy for a lifetime. Spring evenings and early mornings are filled with the songs of hundreds of thrushes and warbler s, their fluty tunes resounding off adjacent cliffs while wind brushes the slopes nearly 2000 feet higher. In juxtaposition are the often violent changes within. Blowdowns, torn streambeds, and large rock falls are commonplace.

The gorge has become my home away from home. The more secrets it reveals the more I’m intrigued. In this brief “walking tour,” beginning with the center and then moving along Hay stack and Marcy’s flanks, inset numbers correspond to the aerial photograph on the following spread.

Center of the Gorge

Marcy Brook is born high in the gorge amidst cliffs, moisture-laden moss, and the talus of the north end. It meanders down the center of the gorge for a mile before intersecting the Elk Lake–Marcy Trail. From the south, it is a moderate rock-hop and quintessential example of a pure mountain stream (inset 1).

About twenty minutes from the trail, the brook narrows slightly at a fork leading to the Old Slide, aka The Pipeline, a wide array of ancient slides with at least one relatively recent track. Farther along, it traverses between loose forest and blowdown fields below Haystack and a dozen or more defunct beaver ponds (insets 14-15) below Marcy. Small drainages and glacial erratics riddle the area, as one would expect.

The brook narrows considerably as one approaches 3500 feet in elevation, where a small stream from Grand Central Slide enters (it’s not long before this widens into several recently enlarged streambeds). Ther eafter, Marcy Brook becomes little more than a babbling drainage under the talus amidst areas of heavy blowdown.

South to North along Haystack

Bushwhacking north along Haystack, one finds several steep slides (inset3) with two conjoined examples adjacent to the first beaver pond. Look for a serpentine crack splitting the seemingly vertical face of the northern slide. Small cliffs and chutes split the forest beyond this point, with the largest appearing at what I call the “V Wall,” a weathered rock wall bordered by a trap dike on the south and gully to the north. Thereafter, the walls get larger and steeper. For the most part, these largely undocumented cliffs can be accessed only via a complicated approach around smaller ledges below, through dense forest, talus, and heavy blowdown. Haystack guards itself well.

North Pass

The anorthositic walls of Haystack and Marcy draw ever closer in the north end. The 600-foot-high slope is among the most rugged areas in the High Peaks, in my opinion surpassed only by Indian Pass. It is the home of massive blocks of talus stacked atop one another. A bushwhack down from the Phelps Trail inevitably threads its way through this substantial minefield covered with moss, duff, evergreens, and rotten deadfall. Fall through in some places and you’ll disappear from sight. It is a mysterious area full of hidden treasures for those who dare.

North to South along Marcy

The first wall high in the pass is called the Panther Den (inset 7). Following it are the Feline and Agharta Walls. Many cliffs lie to their south (inset 8-9). On the steep slope at their base lie additional talus fields (inset 5).

Immediately south of the cliffs lies the first of two named slides, Grand Central. This curving swath of stone terminates in grand style with a waterfall cascading over a 100-foot cliff. Just south lies the quarter-milewide expanse of Mt. Marcy’s East Face slab (inset 13). A rock fall scraped a white line down the right side of the face a few years ago and decimated the forest below...a testament to change. Additional rock will eventually add to the talus field below; above the face lie crevices from ledges that have slipped a few feet, the beginning of their journey downward. Below the face is an open grassy slope (inset 12) that makes walking beneath almost too easy.

The face is bordered on the south by the Margin Slide. Immediately beyond sits a steep buttress; its rounded slopes overlook various blowdown fields between the drainages of the Old Slide and the beaver ponds. Meandering through the gorge isn’t for the faint of heart, but leaves an indelible mark on those who love the Adirondack backcountry.

Kevin “MudRat” MacKenzie is associate registrar at St. Lawrence University and a writer/nature photographer who specializes in slide climbing and backcountry exploration in the Adirondacks during all seasons. For further information: www.mackenziefamily.com/46/46r.html on the "Slides and Bushwhacking" page.

Read the full article at http://mydigitalpublication.com/article/Mystical%2C+Remote%2C+And+Romanticized/1792426/222032/article.html.

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