Donaldson, Emmons and Seward
I’ve been nervously anticipating this hike for a bit due to its intimidating reputation, but had a great time in the Sewards yesterday. My hiking buddy and I arrived at the Coreys Road trailhead at 5:50 a.m. to find the parking area completely full. Luckily another friend was meeting us and had camped near the trailhead the night before, so we were able to park one car behind the other. It took a bit of time to sort this out, and we were officially starting down the trail just before 7 a.m.
We took the Calkins Brook herd path up to the ridgeline. It was a steady climb up, starting out pretty gradually with some steeper pitches up near the top. Reaching the col between Seward and Donaldson, we headed right and just a few moments later were sitting on the Donaldson summit, admiring the views. Storm clouds hovered in the air, but seemed to be staying at bay. A quick snack and a short break, and we were off in pursuit of Emmons.
The walk over to Emmons was extremely wet and muddy. There were some steep sections and a handful of scrambles, but most of the difficulties involved the mud – sections of this path reminded me of the bogs of Couchie, and I sunk in past the top of my boot on more than one occasion. I didn’t pay close attention to my watch yesterday, but I think it took us a little over an hour to get to the summit. After our usual summit break and snack, we headed back toward Donaldson, which we had to reclimb to get to Seward.
I loved the Seward climb – it was so much fun. We were ascending and descending the “gentler” side of Seward; the herd path to Ward Brook that follows the north side of the mountain has a reputation for being even steeper. There were some crazy rock scrambles toward the top and a lot of little waterfalls cascading over the wet rocks. It was a slick journey upward but my new boots seemed to have a nice grip on the wet rock, much to my relief. There were gorgeous views from many points during the ascent, but lots of trees on the summit. It took us about an hour to reach the summit from Donaldson. Another rest and snack break and we started the descent toward the col, where we picked up the Calkins path again for our return.
We had initially planned to camp last night and hike Seymour, the last mountain in the Seward range, today. It was to be my first backpacking weekend in the ‘daks. We had carried full packs just beyond the start of the Calkins path and set up our tent on the way in. About halfway down Calkins it started to rain buckets. I was glad the rain had held off when we were up on the ridgeline, but I had been cold and wet from the rain in the trees all day, and did not welcome the drenching at the end of a long day, at a time when I needed to warm up. When we got back to the campsite I was feeling fairly miserable about the weather and not feeling up for a chilly night in the woods. We made the decision to break down camp and hike out; I greatly appreciated my hiking partner’s flexibility here, as she is a trooper and would have been up for riding out the lousy weather and sticking with our original plan. It was thundering and later on our drive down Coreys Road we also saw some lightening. The walk out in the dark with full packs was pretty grueling, and at a couple points we heard a very large animal in the woods just off the trail. It was most likely a bear but we couldn’t see him in the pitch black night.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, that magical moment arrived – the reflection of our headlamps off the cars in the trailhead lot! It was 10:30 p.m. – we were moving pretty slowly in the home stretch, exhausted and hauling a lot of heavy stuff. The total mileage for the day was approximately 15-16 miles, with 4 peaks. This was a day that will live long in my memory bank – rain, mud, sore muscles, and tons of fun. Eight more to go until #46!