It had been 5 months (gasp) since I’d last climbed a mountain, and I’d been itching to hike for quite some time. I wanted to start the season with a relatively easy mountain to get back into shape and knowing that there would most certainly be some vestiges of winter remaining towards the peak. It was a beautiful 60 degree day, and it was also Juno’s 2nd birthday, so I wanted to give her a really fun day. So, after a miserable winter of constant asthma, flu, and pneumonia (I really hate winter, guys), I excitedly set off with Juno to climb Lyon Mountain! We got a late start and arrived at the trailhead at 11:30am.
The trail was muddy, as expected, and not 2 minutes in we encountered our first pair of people, who remarked how cute Juno was as she raced by at 40mph. Surprisingly, despite the full parking lot, we didn’t encounter any other people until we were almost at the summit. 5 minutes after leaving the trailhead we signed in at the register, crossed a cute little bridge, and were on our way.
The trail immediately started out in a gradual climb. There are actually two trails up this mountain, the new one with gradual switchbacks all the way up to the summit, and the old trail which is literally just straight up the mountain. Knowing I was out of shape, I opted for the longer, more gradual route. I’m embarrassed to say that, as gentle as the climb was, I had to stop SO OFTEN to catch my breath and relieve some of the weight of my pack from my shoulders. I could already feel my lungs resisting me, but after about 20 minutes the trail leveled out onto a sort of ridge that we followed for quite some time over to Lyon.
This trail was really nice. There still weren’t any leaves on the trees, so we could see out behind us to the scenery beyond the trees (though the camera couldn’t quite capture it). Being early spring, there were also a number of gushing streams in which Juno had a field day splashing around. Despite the trails muddiness, there were no bugs out yet!! I was sure to tromp right through even the muddiest patches so as to prevent further erosion of the trail.
After about an hour, I was feeling pretty hungry so we stopped for a little trail mix break. At this point, Juno realized I had packed an extra-special summit snack for her–a hard-boiled egg. She lost all interest in her kibble at that point, haranguing me about that dang egg until we left again.
It was about this time that the climbing started to pick up again. We continued for another hour or so, and began to notice more and more snow lying in patches on the ground; it was only a matter of time before the trail would be covered as well, and I patted myself on the back for packing crampons this time (see the disaster that was ampersand mountain).
Well, as we continued to climb, there certainly were winter conditions, but there wasn’t really ice, just about a foot of snow packed onto the trail. It wasn’t SO bad, until my foot would go straight though the snow unexpectedly. Even poor Juno was having this problem, though she didn’t seem to care too much at first. We carefully trod along for about half an hour, until I heard voices. I pulled Juno off to the side, where my foot again crashed through several feet of snow so I was up to my thigh in snow, while the group carefully tried to pass us. None of the four people passing us were dressed appropriately (wearing shorts, regular sneakers, no packs, etc.) and they looked MISERABLE. I can’t imagine having done this hike with exposed legs and crappy shoes. They pointed out that I was about 2/3 of the way done, and that when I got to the intersection with the old trail up ahead, I should go left to take the old trail up the rest of the way; it was steeper but went straight to the summit. This…was bad, BAD advice, but I didn’t know that at the time, so I followed it. A few minutes after leaving the group behind and crashing through ever-deeper snow, we came to the intersection, and turned left to go UP. I can’t express how awful this was. There were literal FEET of snow, probably deeper than I am tall, sometimes over running water from the snowmelt. There was now way around it, and I could see tracks in the snow where people had decided to slide back down on their rears, which was a bad omen for our return trip. Juno and I SLOWLY made our way up, wondering if we would ever reach the summit, when I turned around for my first glimpse of scenery.
Imagine that the slide in the picture continues up past me, very very steeply, and that was what we were climbing. I was worried that my foot would crash through so deeply that I would get stuck, but I only ever went in up to my hip. As we climbed, several other groups passed us going both up and down. One of the pairs coming down was another group of thoroughly unprepared people wearing cargo shorts, and one of the unfortunate men had bloody scrapes all down his legs from punching through the sharp snow so many times. FINALLY the slope leveled off a bit, and we continued up. The going was a bit easier at this point, since the trail was in shadow and the snow wasn’t as melty, we were able to stay on top of the snow a lot better. Unfortunately, it was also starting to get slippery, and my crampons were still safely carbined to the back of my pack. With no easy way to get them on my feet, I just made my way up very slowly and carefully. Just as I was feeling like we would NEVER reach the summit, I looked up and saw this:
Somewhere along the way, Juno had discovered a sopping cotton glove, and when I looked up I saw her thrashing it around, water spraying outward like a sprinkler. She proudly carried it up to the summit, where were found a nice rock in the sun to enjoy our late lunches. I enjoyed my sammich and she downed almost all of the food I had brought for her, then delightfully ate her egg, and shared my apple with me.
I didn’t even realize until later that night at home that I NEVER EVEN ATE MY VICTORY CHOCOLATE! I was so focused on that stupid egg for the puppy. Anyway, after we had our lunch and relaxed our legs for a few minutes, I got my tripod out and trekked over to the outer rock ledges to take some photos. The views were really incredible from this mountain. Lyon is pretty much a standalone peak at the most northeastern point of the Adirondack park. From the summit, we could see Chazy Lake, with Vermont’s Green Mountains in the distance to the East, to the south we could see the magnificent high peaks of the Adirondacks, and, from the firetower, we could see straight through to Montreal to the North.
Now, let me preface this by saying that I HATE climbing firetowers. I know they’re safe and all, but high winds freak me out, not to mention climbing a rickety metal structure on top of a mountain. However, I really wanted those views, so I left Juno to hang out at the bottom (expecting she’d stay around there) and started to climb up, with the intention to go only to the second or third landing. Well, a few steps up, I look behind me and there’s my sweet, faithful little hound right behind me. I continued my way up, took some photos, and decided to go back down. I beckoned to Juno to follow me, she said “No can do, Mom,” and refused to come back down. Of course. I went a few steps down, urging her to come with me, when I looked up and saw some of her fluff peaking through the steps heading towards the very top of the firetower. So instead of going down, she went higher up. Of course she did. I made my way up there, and the winds were ridiculous. I took the opportunity to take in the views, then led her back down by the collar, her brave little legs shaking. I still cannot believe she followed me up there.
Before we went up the firetower, there were a few pairs of hikers enjoying the views, but when we came down everyone was gone. It was already 2:40pm, and I didn’t want to be the last person on the mountain (for safety reasons) so we packed up our stuff (well…I did. Juno needs to get a backpack.) and headed back the way we came.
I was considering just sliding down the whole mountain on my butt, taking the steep old trail, but was really dreading going back the way I came and sinking into the snow. At some point during the descent, I reached what I though was a little junction, and took the more worn-looking path to the left. The trail here was difficult to follow at times, but thanks to the snow I could follow the footsteps of other hikers. However, though I continued to see red trailmarkers on the trees, I was confused because this was definitely not the way I had come up. After a few minutes of this, I met an older couple who confirmed that I was following the newer, gradual trail, not the steep older trail I had turned onto on the way up. Let me tell you…this trail was GREAT! Sure, maybe it was a little longer, but I didn’t crash through the snow once, partly because I learned how to avoid doing that (stay towards the middle of the path), but mostly because it wasn’t steep at all and I had my crampons on this time. Shortly after meeting that couple, I came to the junction where I had left the safe trail before, and continued straight to stay on it. OMG the going was SO much easier this time. In no time at all, the trail was mostly cleared of snow, so I took off my crampons at a little stream, cleaned them off, and continued on down. At this point, Juno was flat out exhausted. She had been following in my exact footsteps the whole way down to avoid falling into the snow. I would occasionally look behind me to see where she was, not hearing her running rampant, only to find that she was practically on my heels. She was an absolute angel during the whole trip, actually responding to my commands even where there were other people around! I guess that’s the difference between being 1 and 2 years old.
The rest of the hike was bliss. I was much more appreciative of the gradual slope and the beautiful birch forests on the return trip than on the way up. There were no rock scrambles or difficult sections, and it was easy on my knees, which were hurting regardless. This hike would be beautiful to do in late spring-early summer, when it’s apparently abundant wildflowers are in bloom. Even the old trail would be nice to do, since you have constant views of the scenery behind you during the ascent, and even more so on the descent, though this path is much tougher due to it’s steepness and scrambly-ness. Lots of loose rocks and erosion. Juno and I made it back to our car at about 4:40pm, making our descent 1 hour faster than the ascent, which I contribute to not taking the old path down from the summit. That ate up so much time. So the two of us, covered in mud, headed home, where the birthday girl got to enjoy her ice cream and promptly passed out until morning, when both of us were loathe to get out of bed. That’s the sign of a good day’s hike!