Thursday, August 31, 2017
My hike day began early, as I rose at 5:00am for the drive north to climb Snowy Mountain, which although not one of the so-called Adirondack 46ers, is the tallest mountain south of the 4,000 ft “High Peaks” region.
Heading out from Orange County at a little after 5:30, I arrived at my friend Joe Cardinale’s real estate office in Clifton Park, NY at about 7:15am. The plan was for me to leave my car here for the day, and Joe would drive us to and from Indian Lake, where we would begin the hike.
Allowing for a stop in the village of Indian Lake to check our email first (it was the only place in the region we could get any cell or Internet service), we arrived at the trail head along New York State Route 30 by about 9:15am. Only three other cars were in the lot, although with such nice weather, I expected we’d see a few more upon our return several hours later. We got off to a bit of a false start due to my forgetting to bring my phone (with its camera – IMPORTANT!), but we finally got going up the mountain by about 9:30.
With a summit of 3,898 ft in elevation and a clean prominence of over 2,200 ft, this hike looked on paper to be a challenging one. But the bottom of the mountain was forgiving,
as the first 2 and a half miles of this 3.5-mile effort to the top were undulating, but certainly not steep. It was only after our 2nd crossing of the Beaver Brook, which shadowed us on our right for much of the way up, that the pitch of the trail began to have a serious effect on our heart rates.
We took a break or two during the final 1-mile push, one of which was along a particularly steep section that not only required some hand-over-fisting, but was also difficult to follow for lack of frequent DEC trail blaze discs. But as we ascended what seemed to me to be the logical path, a red disc came into view, and I affirmed to Joe that we were still on track.
After reaching a false summit, but by all means a more navigable path, we continued a few tenths of a mile further to what turned out to be the final ascent to the summit ridge. It was again a hand-over-fist effort, albeit a brief one, and at last we had arrived at – or at least close to – the promised land. There was a clearing to our right where several other hikers had stopped to take a break and enjoy the view. But Joe and I passed up the viewing area and followed the trail perhaps 100 meters further, through a delicious grove of mountain pines, ultimately reaching the summit, where a 60-foot tall fire tower stood.
I skulked around for a bit trying to find a U.S. Coast and Geodetic marker. But finding none, I said to Joe “OK, let’s go up in the fire tower.” I didn’t have to twist his arm.
About halfway up the fire tower stairway I couldn’t help but notice that the fencing around it was, well, how do you say……. missing! This gave me brief pause, but it didn’t stop our ascent. Although the skies had gone mostly gray during our hike in from the trail head, the view from the cabin was still nothing less than terrific. As is typical of any Adirondack or Catskill mountain fire tower, this one had plenty of graffiti in it. But the most notable one was a carving that said “Yeah hiking” which had been accentuated with some kind of red paint or pastel crayon. I looked at Joe and said “Yeah, hiking!”
After gathering in the glorious panoramic views for a few minutes and taking a few pictures (enduring what must have been 50-60mph winds in the cab), we descended the fire tower and began making our way back down the mountain. As we did, it occurred to me that although this was my 19th New York County High Point, it was my first of the Adirondack High Peaks. I would still have four more more of these to go (Marcy, Seward, Lyon and Gore) on my way toward completing my project, which is to stand on the high point of all 62 New York State counties.
Although we got lost once on the way back down, following a false path for a short time, we didn’t stay lost for long. We encountered a couple groups of hikers who were on their way up, and shared the customary pleasantries as we passed. As we neared the trail head, we came upon a young woman who was also going in the other direction, and we stopped and chatted with her briefly. She was alone, and dressed more like she was going to the mall than hiking an Adirondack mountain. She had on khaki slacks, a dress blouse, and a sweater tied around her waist. She did not have a backpack or a water bottle. I’ve seen this kind of thing before, but it always seems to mystify me.
“How could people choose to hike a rugged mountain in such an unprepared fashion?”, I always asked myself.
Anyway, she asked Joe and I how long it would take to reach the summit, and whether we thought she had enough time to get there and back. Knowing that we had just made a 4-and-a-half our round trip, I looked at my watch, saw the time of 2:10pm, and harumphed. Joe, being that man of reason that he is, suggested she proceed ahead for 2 hours, and that if she wasn’t at the summit by then, that she should turn around so as not to take the risk of being caught in the fading light of a late afternoon in the ‘Dacks.
Minutes later we were back at the car, and pleased to have somewhat effortlessly knocked off a 3,900-foot Adirondack peak. To celebrate the achievement, we drove south to the town of North Creek and had lunch and beers at Trappers Tavern.