12 Hours in the Wilderness: Haystack, Basin, Saddleback

“What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. This is what life means and what life is for.”

– George Mallory

We were eyeing this specific hike for quite some time now. We felt like bagging these peaks were necessary after waiting two years. When I started hiking years ago, the “Devil’s Half Mile” to Haystack seemed terrifying. The same went with the cliffs on Saddleback Mountain. Exposure on hikes even if it was just a little, felt very overwhelming to me. After hiking mountains such as Mount Washington and the trek for Franconia Ridge, I started to enjoy these moments. Anyways, let’s get right into the “HA-BA-SA” trek!

A long trek to Haystack

We were prepared for a long day tagging all of these peaks but getting to Haystack is hard within itself! Anthony, Adam, and I reached a sign which pointed us to Bushnell Falls or Mount Haystack. With 3.8 miles to go, we began our trek to one of the most demanding hikes in the Adirondacks. I will be honest, this is one of those climbs where a lot of it is trying to enjoy the hike itself. It takes a damned long time to get to that summit and the last 1/2 mile is a hell of a push. Continuing on, we passed a vast amount of fallen trees and there was a widow maker hanging over our head at one point too. Seeing Saddleback in the distance had me stoked because of the cliffs that we had to climb. The more interesting the adventure, the better. What felt like an eternity later, we made our way around the trail. Climbing up Little Haystack and seeing Mount Haystack in the distance was an absolutely surreal moment. Between our most sought after mountains, this was a big achievement for us in the Adirondacks. After snacking for a bit on Haystack, taking some photos…we started our way to Basin Mountain.

View of Haystack (about 1.1 miles from summit)
Approaching Haystack
Landscape view from summit

Up & Down

Going down Haystack and back up Little Haystack was hell on our legs. We knew that the rest of the day was going to be rough. We had Haystack to ourselves and Basin was about to look the same way. Climbing up over tree roots and steep inclines was destroying the legs. The hike between the two mountains seems like a blur to me now. The summit was open with incredible views and it was another mountain all to ourselves! This never happens in summer time Adirondacks therefore, I was stoked. Next up, the epic cliffs of Saddleback! One of the most steep climbs that makes me concerned for winter peak-baggers.

Landscape from Basin’s summit
Another shot from Basin’s summit

The Cliffs

Approaching Saddleback from Basin seems really close but it’s definitely a good amount of distance. At least longer than what it says, classic trail signs. Seeing the cliffs come up from the forest was unreal too. I will caution that if you aren’t used to exposure or fear it, this mountain isn’t for you. I’d try your best to not follow all of the markers on the open rock. Some of it seems to be a bit misleading. We followed the cracks throughout the rock to grab onto and by all means, please don’t look under your feet. Focus on the destination, not what’s behind you. When we reached the peak of Saddleback, it was in pure isolation for us too. We’ll not have a day like that for awhile now! Now onto the longest descent we’ve had.

Heading up the cliffs

How much longer?

According to the split after descending from Saddleback it says “3.8 miles to Johns Brook Loj” which wasn’t very accurate. At least in my opinion and those with me. A moment of relief shot through us once we made it there. The way back took awhile but it was better to be on flat ground for the time being. It’s about 3.6 miles back to the parking lot after you make it to Johns Brook Loj. Before we made it back to the car, a lady caught up with us who did the entire Great Range! She ended up going to the garden parking with us which we brought her back to her car down the road where it begins at Rooster Comb Mountain. She ended up doing the entire traverse solo and ran parts of it. Insane! Also, we ran into a not so bright group of hikers, which I’ll get into now.

Sneakers, Small Backpacks, and Risk

It’s not a day in the High Peaks during the summer season until you meet people who lack experience. Similarly, this can be noted throughout the fall as well. There was a group of four to five people which seemed to be extremely unprepared. They had small backpacks and each were wearing sneakers. Remember the Saddleback Cliffs I mentioned earlier? They went the opposite way and went down the cliffs which could be extremely dangerous to those on an ascent. Always research where you’re heading and the safest approach. Not merely for yourself, but for the safety of others too.

Hiking Stats & Gear

  • 22.5 Miles
  • 3.5 L of water
  • Garmin InReach
  • Bic Lighter
  • LifeStraw
  • Canon Rebel T6
  • Extra hiking socks
  • MSR trekking poles
  • Almond Butter (Yes, I ate most of the jar on the hike…it happens)

Thank You!

Thank you to anyone who took the time to read this. I’ve been on a lot of treks since then that I need to put out there. Haystack, Basin, Saddleback is a very long day but if you enjoy the outdoors, I’m certain you’ll love it. If you have any questions on a hike, feel free to reach out. Smash that like button, give a follow, or leave a comment if you have anything to share on this hike!


6 Replies to “12 Hours in the Wilderness: Haystack, Basin, Saddleback”

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