Once upon a time, many years ago, I was an archaeology major. I was (and still am) enthralled by mysteries like Stonehenge, the Nazca Lines, and the Egyptian Pyramids. While this line of academic pursuit was abandoned for a degree that promised a more lucrative future, I still get a thrill from reading about ancient ruins and cultures.
I have to admit I was excited when we decided to hike the Tripyramids last weekend. The name is so much cooler than Lafayette, Whiteface or Liberty, even if imagination fell a little short on dubbing the three peaks North, South, and Middle Tripyramid. The mountains are so named because of their three distinctive peaks. As only two of the three are officially on the New England’s 4000 footer list, we decided to hike only those two – North and Middle Tripyramid. This would allow us to take the path less traveled, a trail that would avoid the infamous ‘slide’ on North Tripyramid, and which would bring us down along the Sabbaday Brook and waterfall in an eleven mile loop.
Although the day wasn’t particularly hot, the air was thick and humid. As we hiked along the Pine Bend Brook, the mosquitoes swarmed in droves, sticking to our sweaty faces, and on several occasions, flying directly into my eyes. Not my favorite part of the hike. I do have to say, however, that this was one of the more visually interesting hikes I’ve been on. Moss covered rocks, a wide range of foliage, and over a dozen different types of mushrooms made for a nice view – at first.
This was the first hike where we used our new Camelbak packs and the trekking poles we received for Christmas. The packs were great. We didn’t have to stop to drink, and their streamlined design resulted in much less gravity drag while scrambling across large rock slabs. The sticks were also a huge help. I hadn’t realized how much strain they reduce on your legs, and they’re awesome for river crossings.
We made it to the summit of North Tripyramid (4,160 feet) soaked, but in good spirits. I climbed down to the little ledge that provided the only view, took a few pictures, we ate lunch, and then we were off. Middle Tripyramid (4,120 feet) was conquered soon enough, and after a few pictures shrouded by a nasty looking storm cloud, we began the five mile descent. That’s where things got a little dicey.
It seems that very few people take this way down. The trail is narrow, claustrophobic in places, and covered in hurdles. We played a game of over – under – over as we negotiated through the maze of trees that had fallen across the trail, in some places using branches overhead to swing over gaps or to balance while walking down trunks. Blazes on the trail were few and far between. Then came the river crossings. No stepping stones across, no fallen trunks, no option other than wading in knee deep, digging into the river bed with our trekking sticks to keep balance against the rushing current. Over and over and over again.
At one point we were on the trail, which continued ahead of us, when we saw a blaze on a tree growing on a strip of land down the middle of the river. So we crossed, walked down the middle of the river for a bit, until we were led back to the trail we had been on. I became convinced that some individual(s) had brought their own paint to blaze a trail of madness for their own personal amusement.
By this time, my mood was not the best it could be. I was tired of wading across the river, tired of the trail, tired of feeling like someone’s fool. Then we hit the falls. Reaching the falls meant that we were only a half mile from the parking lot, and a flat half mile at that. After eleven miles, we could still cover the distance and be back at the car in ten minutes. But the Sabbaday Falls were beautiful. They could not be ignore.
Like an ancient ruin that had stood the test of time, it was a magnificent wonder, cutting a deep gash through the rock with its liquid tongue. Bad moods were abandoned as we happily sloshed out into the water, this time by choice, to take pictures. I can’t say that I suggest taking the Sabbaday Falls Trail as a descent from Middle Tripyramid, but I definitely recommend the half mile hike from the parking lot to see the falls.