July 28, 2020
It’s been a huge time gap since my last New York County High Point summit, but the summer of 2020 and the manner in which the corona virus has changed our business and social activity has spurred me to give some focus once again to this project.
I traveled from the Lower Hudson Valley with my friend and hiking pal Bob Harris to knock off two of the highest peaks on our list, with Lyon Mountain being the first of those two. The drive from our hotel in Lake Placid was about 55 minutes, and consisted mainly of back roads through the towns of Wilmington, Silver Lake, Redford, and then Saranac (not to be confused with Saranac Lake) before we ultimately found the unmaintained road to the trailhead, located next to Chazy Lake.
After driving in about 3/4 of a mile on Lowenberg Rd, we parked alongside two other cars in the lot (yep, we were 3rd), prepped our packs and searched around for the beginning of the trail up the mountain. After taking what seemed like the logical route – a woods road of sorts that had no signage or markings – we soon came to a split in the trail. Straight ahead was apparently an old woods road that went a little over two miles directly up the mountain. And a left-hand turn presented a marked trail (blazed with red DEC discs) that meandered up the mountain via a series of switchbacks. Not wanting to make “getting lost” part of our experience today, we opted for the marked trail.
After signing the register book and crossing a small bridge, we began making our way up the mountain. The map that I had pulled up on Alltrails.com showed at least 10 or 11 switchbacks that we would encounter on our 3.35-mile trek to the summit. Along the way, I annoyed Bob numerous times by stopping to take pictures of mushrooms, a bit of a trail “fetish” that I had recently acquired. It seemed as though every twist and turn brought forth a new and different mushroom to photograph.
Once we got past the halfway mark and the trail began increasing in grade and technical difficulty, I eschewed the mushroom photography in deference to the work we still had ahead.
With two parties on the mountain before us, I knew we would eventually encounter them, and sure enough, we finally met up with one of them on their way back down, a nice couple about our age with two beautiful dogs in tow. They informed us that we were approximately 20 mins from the summit, and the lady said “that last half mile is kinda steep”. It turned out to be not as steep as I expected, but the real issue was that the trail was rocky, and was also essentially a stream from recent rains.
So Bob and I carefully worked our way up the final stages of the mountain, managing to to keep our feet reasonably dry amid the flowing water, and in fairly short stead we found ourselves at the summit clearing, with a fire tower marking our final vertical destination. As we emerged onto the open rock, we saw another hiker with a handsome, excitable pooch. And then two others appeared from back behind the fire tower, who were apparently in the first hiker’s party.
After a bit of friendly chatter with the other hikers, we skulked around on the summit, trying to find the best place(s) for views and photographs.
The vistas to the east and northeast were remarkable, giving us a broad view to the east of Lake Champlain and Vermont in the distance, along with dozens of windmills in the foreground below us (this part of the state is rife with wind farms). To the south, you could see the High Peaks region 40-50 miles away, with Whiteface Mountain – easily identifiable by its pyramid shape – situated at the center of it all.
The fire tower cab was open, so I began to ascend for some better views. But once I got above the treetops the winds were so fierce that I freaked out and stopped short of going into the cab. But even only 2/3 of the way up, the views were even more magnificent, as I was now able to see the High Peaks region all the better, and to the north I could see the hundreds and hundreds of windmills that are between the towns of Chateaugay and Ellenburg.
After getting a few more pics, I came down from the fire tower and Bob and I headed back toward the car the way we came. About 15 mins into the descent we came upon a couple on their way up who appeared to be in their 70s. They looked like seasoned, well-prepared hikers, and we exchanged a few words with them about it being a little steep and wet near the summit. The man then said to us “Well, if you (meaning ‘a person’, not specifically either of us) have to complain about being in a place like this, you’re probably not doing it right.” I’m paraphrasing him, but that was the gist of his comment.
We managed to get lost (briefly) once on the way down, but it was otherwise an uneventful 2-hour return to the trail head lot, where we saw at least 10 cars now including our own.
With temperatures beginning to rise, and Bob and I with thirsts in need of being quenched, we made haste getting back to Lake Placid, where we partook in some celebratory beers.
Distance to summit: 3.5 miles
Elevation gain: 1,959 feet
Time to ascend: 1 hour, 54 mins
Time to descend: 2 hours, 1 min