Today was a perfect day for hiking, so Juno and I loaded up our packs and headed out at 7am to get to the trailhead at 9am. I just have to say, ::SPOILER ALERT:: this was in the top 2 of the COOLEST MOUNTAINS I’VE EVER CLIMBED! Seriously, even though this mountain isn’t a high peak, it should not be overlooked. Clearly, other people already know that secret, because the little parking lot at the trailhead at the intersection of Jay Mountain Rd and Upland Meadows Rd was already full when we arrived. We parked on the street, took our starting photos, and headed off.
The trail started climbing right from the start, gradually and continually via switchbacks. We signed in at the register a few minutes after leaving the trailhead, and soon after followed a cool low rock wall along the trail.
Juno was so excited to be sporting her new pack so that she could carry her own water! Or maybe just I was excited to not have to carry her water! Either way, she trotted back and forth excitedly, while I trudged up behind her.
I’ve come to realize that the first 30 minutes of any hike are the hardest! I’m constantly checking my watch, thinking “It must have been an hour already!” and it’s only been 15 minutes. After those first 30 minutes I tend to find my stride.
Juno was on her best behavior today. About 20 minutes in, this little cream colored poodle came running up to us from behind, owner nowhere in sight, and started BITING JUNO! She jumped back, looked at me like “What the heck, Mom?!” and then chased him off. She made sure the dog stayed away from me, then came back, and we waited together for the irresponsible owner and his dog to pass us. I thought this would be a one time thing, but unfortunately those two would continue to haunt our beautiful hike. This happened two or three more times throughout the day. The owner claimed the dog was just afraid of big dogs, but scared dogs tend not to run up to big dogs trying to fight. No, sir, your dog is just aggressive, not scared. I don’t want to go on about this anymore, just, if you have a dog that’s not friendly with other dogs and doesn’t respond to your commands, KEEP IT ON A LEASH! My poor pupper was snapped at/possibly bitten 4 times during this hike, while she has never bitten anything/anyone in her entire life, and there were so many other dogs on this trail that the angry little dog could’ve hurt. Anyway, that’s enough of that. We were determined to enjoy our day to the max anyway, and continued on our way, enjoying the bright greenness of everything around us. What a welcome sight after dreary winter!
After about an hour of steady but gradual climbing, we paused for a short snack and water break, and to let a couple of young guys and their sweet hound pup pass us. A little bit afterward, I looked to my left and saw a tall mountain through the trees. I thought, “Hey! That might be Whiteface! I remember reading that there’s a great view of it from Jay!”, then I realized, nope, that tall mountain that looks sooooo far away is, in fact, Jay Mountain. So, we picked up our pace.
So I learned for sure during this hike that my dog requests my permission to do things (you wouldn’t know at home, when she’s constantly scheming and stealing socks). She saw these big boulders, ran over to them, then looked at me and started heading back, expecting to be told “No”. So when I encouraged her to go up there, she ran back excitedly, hopped up on the biggest boulder, and literally posed for the camera. Later, she did the same thing at a much more dangerous rock cliff that she wanted to climb up, I told her no, and she sighed and fell into line behind me.
Since Juno and I apparently dawdle–a lot–we had to stop quite a few times to let speedier people pass us up. We don’t mind though! Everyone was so happy today, and happy to see my sweet little girl, and she was happy to see them. After about a mile, mile and a half of climbing, we reached a little col over to Jay mountain, and Juno got a nice refreshing drink from the stream.
I was well prepared for bugginess today, with deet and permethrin, but there really weren’t many out! I also thought it was be a sea of mud, but again, nothing! It was really a perfect day, clear blue skies, moderate temp, and I couldn’t have asked for more.
Nearing 2.5 miles into the trail, the woods cleared out quite a bit, and we got a sneak peek of the amazing views behind us.
Shortly after, we reached a small junction where the trail split to the left and right. We chose to go left, which led us up to a gorgeous bare-rock lookout where a few of the people who passed us were lounging and having a snack.
I looked to the right, saw an impressive-looking rocky peak, and asked the nearest couple if that was indeed the peak of Jay. They confirmed this, and said that even though the ridge looks like it’s wooded from this angle, we’ll be walking along the other side where it’s open.
We were excited about the ridge, and didn’t want to waste any time, so Juno and I took a last look at the views, then headed off. We went back to the junction, met a really fun group of young men heading up to the lookout, then turned left at the junction to head up to the ridge.
This is where things got interesting. Very soon after this point, the foliage really thinned out and I could see we were indeed following a trail across a ridge where we could see out all around us. It was INCREDIBLE!! I couldn’t stop pausing to stare in awe. There were some thin trees that I could see through and around, and a lot of green ground foliage.
The trail continued climbing steadily, but I really didn’t notice it since I was so absorbed in the scenery. When we surpassed the little thin trees, we were basically in open air, often climbing on bare rock ridge in between following dirt trails.
The mountain in the distance, in the center, is Big Slide Mountain with the smaller Three Brothers leading up to it just to the left
The summit(s) looked so far away, but honestly it was nice to know that we’d have so much time to travel along the ridge. It was like a great book that you don’t want to finish because then it’d be over; we wanted to prolong the adventure for as long as possible.
There weren’t any blazes or trail markers along the ridge, but luckily, there were many many cairns leading the way. There were so many times when I’d stop and look around, unsure of which way to go, and I’d spot a cairn placed just perfectly to guide the way.
While the trail up Jay is pretty mellow for the most part (until the final stretch up to the real summit), there were a couple of places where I had to pause and plan how to climb up a huge vertical boulder. Juno of course just popped right up to the top with no effort at all, and would sit at the top to watch over me while I dragged my butt up there too.
We followed this for about a mile and a half before we reached what we had been thinking was the peak at about 11:45am. Well, it turned out that it was a false peak, and to get to the “real” summit we would have to first descend, then ascend very steep, large rock faces to get to a slightly higher elevation than we were already at. It was probably only less than 0.5 miles away, but I guessed it would take at least half an hour to climb. As much as I hate not making it to the summits of mountains, I didn’t want to make Juno come back down that steep trail to the summit and risk hurting her joints. I decided to just stay where we were and enjoy more of our time at the false summit instead of using that time to hike to a slightly higher peak. Plus, there were a bunch of people at the true summit but I had the false one to myself for the time being!
Juno and I sat down and enjoyed our lunches, she ate almost all of her kibble and half of my Babybel cheese on top of that. Refreshed, we put our feet up to soak in the sun and feel fresh mountain breeze and I enjoyed my victory chocolate.
After a few minutes, I unpacked my tripod, switched to my wide-angle lens, and trekked over to the other side of the ridge to take some photos.
After about 25 minutes, a large group arrived and set up near where I had left my pack. Juno and I headed up there and made quick friends with the boisterous group. They were so funny, cracking the same weird kinds of jokes that I do, and we enjoyed each others company while Juno cozied up to them trying to get food. I offered to take a photo of them, and they excitedly obliged. Meanwhile, while they were lining up, one of them shout-laughed at Juno to “Get out of my bag!”. Yup, my little schemer was using the opportunity to snoop and look for morsels. That’s my girl! Then she and I lined up to have our photo taken.
I really enjoyed the group of people I was hangin’ out with, and we sat and chatted for quite a while. Just as Juno and I were getting ready to go, a group of 4 older people came to the false summit from the real summit, fawning over Juno. Seriously, it must be nice to be such a cute dog. The other group left, and June and I sat and chatted with this awesome, energetic, HILARIOUS new group for a few minutes and took a photo for them, too. We were so lucky to meet such awesome people today!! So many times, people we pass just look miserable on hikes, and just mumble as we pass them, but the thrill of hiking was contagious today.
We talked for a few minutes, the we all headed down the mountain at about 1pm. This part of the hike was hilarious. While climbing up the rocky ridge, there are a lot of very well-placed cairns to show the way exactly where and when they were needed. However, on the way back down, there wasn’t such luck. The 6 of us got turned around about 5 times, slipped gracefully down some very loose scrabbling, and tripped over Juno since she’d adopted them all as her packmates for the day.
After a while, I ended up leaving the little group behind. They were enjoying the views, and I was concerned about getting Juno back into the shaded woods, out of the sun. I had hoped to see them again before we left, but no such luck 😦
At one point, I had paused to admire the scenery, and when I turned back to the right, Juno was up on a rock ledge…with 3 other dogs!! They were all SO CUTE with each other! She fit right in, like they were all just a pack of sweet dogs that had known each other forever. Then, yet another dog showed up, a mastiff who looked like she was really over all of this “exercise” business, and all four dogs went to greet her, tails wagging. This was just the sweetest thing, they were all so happy together.
We left them to continue on their way, and made our way back into the forest. The rest of the descent was completely uneventful. We didn’t encounter any of the fun groups we’d met on the way up, just a hiker or two here and there making their way up the mountain. We kept up a good pace, with Juno mostly following right on my heels. I was almost surprised when we made it to the trail register and signed out by 3pm, and couldn’t believe the amount of cars now lining the road!
We took our leaving photo together, which didn’t go very well, and headed to the car to pack up. This was such a great day, with great people and perfect weather. I can’t wait to climb this one again, and make it all the way to the summit! Happy Trails!
Jay Mountain: 3600′ Elevation Gain: ~2000′
Round trip distance: ~8 miles
Total Duration: 5 hiking hours + 1 summit hour
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