March started out on a difficult note with four different snowstorms — which left me slogging through deep drifts, sinking up to the knees in fresh powder, toiling upwards one step at a time — just miserable hard work. On one hike, I’d set out to climb four peaks but completed only one, which put me behind schedule. As month-end began to draw near, there were seven peaks left — a feasible load — but then conference calls and meetings popped up unplanned for, and time started to get tight. Now there would be little room for error, especially when the longest, toughest hike was left for the last day of the month….
It was time for something new. I could hardly count the times I’ve done the 8-mile loop from Balsam Lake Mountain (BLM) to Graham and back, starting and ending at the Dry Brook Ridge parking area. OK, I’ll try: three times this year, once last year, and a long time ago I took my son Philip, then five years old, on approximately this route for an overnight camping trip. I’ve also come at Graham/BLM from Doubletop, which entails a difficult bushwhack across a steep divide; most recently in August 2016 as part of an aborted attempt to thru-hike the 35, and once the year before.
Studying the map, I’ve discovered a different route connecting these three peaks, one that circles around into a valley to the west through which the Hardenburgh Trail runs — an area I’ve never seen before….