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EMBARK: A closer look at Ouluska Pass

September 22, 2015
By SPENCER?MORRISSEY - Embark Writer , Lake Placid News

It has been a while since I finished my round of bushwhacking the Adirondack 46, but yet I still find myself wanting to explore more off-the-beaten-path destinations, especially in the often-crowded High Peaks.

Seymour Mountain is not one of the overcrowded peaks, but its popularity is growing as more and more people seem to be diving into the thought of becoming a 46er. With the number of registered completers approaching 10,000, the push to finish gives many a slight case of summit fever.

On this day we set off from the Coreys trailhead along a mud- and insect-infested trail. With Corenne by my side, we pushed on in good fashion, floating over the rocks and roots like a staircase through the liquid earth.

Article Photos

Ouluska Pass
Photo by Spencer Morrissey

The red efts gave color to the otherwise brown landscape, but also added additional obstacles to avoid stepping on. To my knowledge no animals were harmed in the making of this adventure.

Pressing on, we quickly sped by the beaver property, over intermittent branches of Ward Brook and a packed house cooking up blueberry pancakes - oddly enough - at the Blueberry lean-to. The wonderful aroma did trigger a slight interest in a second breakfast for us.

Once we hit the Ward Brook Truck Trail, we welcomed the sight of a dry trail under our feet. The Ward Brook lean-to was also bursting at the seams with campers; packed like sardines, I am sure they had a cozy night before they arose for their hike.

Soon we were at the cairn that marked the intersection for Seymour, and without skipping a beat we headed up the much narrower passage along Seymour Brook.

This trail starts out quite mellow, but as its course got steeper our pace began to decrease and decrease. Very muddy and slippery on the really steep sections of the trail we often looped our poles around our wrists and used trees to pull ourselves up.

At the first view, we relaxed for quite some time looking out over the pass and up toward Seward Mountain, which was peering down upon us from high. We knew the summit wasn't far, and we were looking forward to the excellent views.

Passing by the signed summit, we continued the hundred feet or so to the viewing platform. Seymour, in my opinion, is the finest of the mountains in this area. We stood here alone for quite some time, but it wasn't long before we could hear voices in the distance, not to be confused with the voices that are usually in our heads.

Now back at the first overlook, not alone at this point, we made the last-minute decision to make an adventure out of the day. Our accelerated rate of speed getting to this point left us time to explore.

We looked out over the ledge and down toward Ouluska Pass. The forest looked friendly enough. We had been through some pretty hostile environments in the past and couldn't image it would be an endless torture. We would soon find out.

The cliffs we stood on didn't aid our efforts any, but we worked our way around them to get down onto a lower shelf where the terrain was much less steep. We gazed through the trees into what looked like a vast amount of open forest - open of course being relative to the person, but to us it was acceptable conditions.

As we descended closer to Ouluska Pass, it became apparent we would not be popping out on the top of the pass as we had hoped. The terrain and the way it was configured with open forest, steep ledges and small bands of dead fall kept pushing us away from the height of land. We were OK with that. We knew that we would eventually run into the Ouluska Pass Brook and we could use that as our natural highway back to the Ward Brook Truck Trail.

Once the trees parted somewhat, we could actually see where we needed to go, and in many cases that was nearly straight down. The stately peak of Seward raised above us, casting its shadow far up the side of Seymour. We could now see the brook, almost at the same time as we heard it, and our enthusiasm started to change.

The brook was roaring pretty well in spots and others it seemed to fan out and be much less aggressive to the boulders that jumbled it. Some areas were tough to get around and others we just hopped over and slid down. Small waterfalls filled our ears and the aperture of our camera as we passed through the lower portions of the pass.

Knowing we would have to return someday to walk through the pass as a whole, we knew at least that the brook would give us a decent route to follow. On occasion we noticed what seemed to be faint paths, knowing that adventurers like us and even hunters gain these slopes every so often.

Then, there it was: a banana peel. It seemed quite fresh, not browned from days of being discarded. Has someone been through here as recent as a day or even a few hours before us? Did someone toss it from a plane? It rested there balanced on a boulder almost teasing us about its origin. Anyhow, it made the journey out with us, next to a few orange peels and a few pieces of dry bread crust.

Finally, as we were reaching the point of wanting, we came to the bridge along the Ward Brook Truck Trail. It couldn't have come at a better time, as we still had more than 4.5 miles of hiking to reach our car and the cool breeze that the open window would provide - the same cool breeze that would wash the deer flies from our hair and the pine needles from our necks. The day had been a bit warm and all too silent and lacking in the breeze department.

The trail before us became shorter and shorter as we reminisced about the pass and thought about the day we would venture the slopes of the Seward Range once again.

The shine of the car was ahead. We could see it resting there alone in its solitude, seeming as happy to see us as we were of it.

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[This article appears in the August-September issue of Embark. Embark is a free, bi-monthly publication that focuses on outdoors-related topics in the Adirondack Park. Embark is published by the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and Lake Placid News.]

 
 
 

 

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