From there, we would do what we’ve done on several of our county high point excursions, and that is, to leave one car behind and carpool to the trailhead.
On this day we were headed to Washington County, a drive of almost 3 hours to Huletts Landing, where the trail leading to Black Mountain is located. The mountain itself is situated in the Lake George Wild Forest, a vast tract of state land just east of the lake. As we drove the final few miles north on Rte 22, we were literally a stone’s throw away from the Vermont border, crossing – and then paralleling – South Bay, which is the southernmost portion of Lake Champlain.
Bob and I arrived at the trailhead at a little before 9:00am, and there were two vehicles there already, so we expected we’d see other hikers at some point, perhaps on their way back down while we were still going up. Sure enough, about a half mile or so in we passed two guys coming down. Their only remark to us was “The bugs are bad. Hope you’re wearing bug spray.”
The first segment of the 2.5-mile trail to the Black Mountain summit is a woods road, but after passing a structure that we surmised was a DEC ranger cabin, the trail becomes single track. For most of the next mile, it was very rocky and washed out, so much so that in many places we could see that hikers had simply gone off trail, and worn down a new trail tread in the process.
The last 3/4 of a mile of the ascent is a little steep, with about 900 ft of vertical gain. But overall, this hike is modest compared to some of the tough Catskill hikes. The summit features both a fire tower and an electric-generating windmill – the only one I’ve ever seen on a mountain top. The firetower and windmill were fenced off and inaccessible, leaving no opportunity to ascend further and improve the already terrific views of Lake George and the higher Adirondack peaks to the northwest. And we could tell that the windmill was working, as there was an audible hum that was no double a part of the electricity collection process. Also part of the assemblage of equipment on the summit was a small array of solar panels, which were evidently furthering the collection of electricity.
The views at the top were marvelous, providing vistas of Lake George both to the north and the south that together allow you to see the majority of the lake’s 32-mile length.
And to memorialize this peak, there is an official U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey marker, dated 1942. According to the National Geodetic Survey website, there are about 400,000 of these markers throughout the United States and its territories.
Instead of returning the way we came, Bob and I opted to descend the back side of the mountain and loop back to the car by way of Black Mountain Ponds and Lapland Pond.
Just like the ascent had been, the descent here was steep at first before leveling off somewhat. We found ourselves temporarily off trail a few hundred feet above the first of the two Black Mountain Ponds, but managed to right the ship in fairly short stead.
All of the ponds were lovely, and just prior to reconnecting with the trail we had gone in on, we passed a body of water that was not on any Google or trail maps. But yet it was there, a small, swampy pond that had accumulated enough water to make a bog bridge necessary in order for us to successfully pass by.
We reached the car in just a tad over 3 hours of elapsed time. The weather had warmed quite a bit as the morning progressed, and Bob and I were happy to get into my air-conditioned car for the trip home. We had hoped to make a stop at the Chatham Brewing Company on the way back, but in learning that they wouldn’t be open until 4:00pm, we opted to head to Troy NY and have a couple of celebratory beers at Brown’s Brewing Company instead.
All in all it was a perfect day for hiking, and I pocketed my 18th New York county high point, while Bob knocked off #7 on his list.