Hopkins Mountain

06/21/2018

It’s been almost 1 year since I’ve been in the high peaks….The last real trip I had was Iroquois, Algonquin, and Wright, my absolute favorite trip to date, and my absence from the high peaks has been slowly eating away at my soul. A week after that trip, I suffered a mysterious injury to one of my knees, and haven’t been able to hike since. Lately I’ve been able to tackle small, easy mountains, so I made a deal with myself: If I could manage to climb Hopkins mountain without issue, then I would get myself back in the 46ers in 2 weeks. With that thought in mind, I set off determined to climb this peak.

I arrived at the trailhead for Rooster Comb mountain on Rt. 73 at about 9am, crossed the road and headed away from Keene Valley toward Ranney Way. Ranney Way is a private road, hence parking at the nearby Rooster Comb lot.

This is a nice little gravel road. I continued down this way for about 0.25 miles (continue straight when the road forks to the right) before coming to the trailhead. There’s no register for this trail, just this old sign.

This wood was absolutely GORGEOUS. The trees towered tall and broad with no undergrowth beneath, with verdant rays of light filtering through a leafy canopy. Forests like these always make me feel safe and protected, and it’s so tempting to set up a hammock and lounge. Today however I was on a mission, so that would have to wait.

Much of the trail follows along the Hopkins Brook, providing a nice ambient sound of trickling water and numerous photo opportunities. Unfortunately it seems that many of the smaller off-shooting streams have dried up from lack of rain. At least it wasn’t muddy!

The path is soft and packed, climbing moderately and consistently through the pines with some steeper inclines interspersed. After about 1.8 miles I reached the intersection with the Mossey Cascade Trail and turned left to continue up to Hopkins Mountain.

The going was a bit easier at this point, with some flat sections interspersed with the climbing. I continued to employ my technique of frequent stretching breaks to take care of my bad knee and hoped desperately that it would prove effective to abate the pain during descent. During one of these such breaks, I heard a very peculiar sound coming from the undergrowth to the right of the trail…It sounded like the most pitiful animal I’ve ever heard, accompanied by the rustling of leave as the critter scooted around through the brush. Recognizing the sound as something I heard while climbing Coney Mountain in the middle of the night (and thought it was a snake eating an animal???), I was extra curious to determine the source….It was a ruffed grouse hen! I had never seen one on a trail before, and it turns out the sounds she was making were alarm, distress, and distraction calls! The calls were probably because I scared the guacamole out of her, BUT HEY IT WAS COOL! I was too focused on observing the bird to even consider recording audio or visual, so here’s a link to a video from someone who didn’t totally drop the ball (like I did :P) showing exactly what it sounded like.

These trails continued together for about 0.7 miles before coming to the next junction. At this point the forest became much more lush, full of mossy rocks and ferns, and of course many many many spider webs, which my face  considerately caught for all those that would follow in my steps later in the day. Yep, that’s me, totally magnanimous…

I always get really excited when I see that “0.2 miles to summit” sign…I know the climb is going to be steep, but knowing I’m so close puts a serious pep in my step and I fly right up the trail. This trail did not disappoint! Though not very long, this trail has over 2000′ of elevation gain in a little over 2 miles. It’s not as easy as it seems just looking at a map, which is why I chose it as my “test” to see if I’m capable of climbing high peaks again.

I was soon scrambling out on open rock faces at about 11am and I ran ahead to see this first view.

I won’t lie to you. I knew I had been really missing the high peaks, but I don’t think I realized just how much until I reached this point. My soul, my very essence, seemed to exhale a sigh of relief to finally be HOME. I’ve never felt to belong anywhere as strongly as I feel that in the high peaks of my beloved Adirondacks. There is an almost magnetic attraction to them…After all, home is where the heart is, right? Never in my life have I shed tears of happiness, but as I stood there gazing upon the vistas of the welcoming wilderness, I cried. And I couldn’t stop! Seriously, I’m so glad I had the peak to myself for a while because I had tears streaming down my face for a solid 30 minutes. The past year has been full of trials and tribulations, and the knowledge that I was physically unable to climb the 46ers had weighed on me with a blanket of depression, seemingly deepening with every passing day. Finding myself at the summit of beautiful Hopkins Mountain, sans knee pain, the realization that I would FINALLY be able to climb again seemed to whack me over the head. I’ve rarely been so happy in all my life….but I digress.

From left to right: Dix , Dial, Nippletop, Colvin, Sawteeth, Gothics, Armstrong, Wolfjaws

I climbed my way up to the summit and sat my emotional butt down to eat some lunch and bathe in the splendor of the mountains.

I stayed at the summit for about an hour and a half. A few people stopped by, but they didn’t linger, and I was thankful. I sat to stretch my legs and enjoy my victory snacks before standing up to head back down.

It took a solid 10 minutes for me to be able to drag myself away from the summit, but at 12:30pm I turned away for the last time and made my way back down the steep trail.

I was a bit nervous about impending knee pain, but after 30 minutes of very careful, measured steps and an agonizingly slow pace, I relaxed a bit, realizing that knee pain would not plague me on this perfect day.

A mere 1:15 after leaving the summit and I had arrived back at the Ranney Way road.

Another short 0.25 miles and I was back at my car, taking my leaving photo. This trail, though relatively short, is an absolute joy. Beautiful forest, just-difficult-enough grade, and stunning summit views. Having successfully completed this trek, I can now confidently say to expect a new trip report from the high peaks in the next 2 weeks!

Happy hiking!

Hopkins Mountain: 3156′ Elevation Gain: ~2100′
Round Trip Distance: ~6 miles (from Rooster Comb lot)
Total Duration: 4 hours 45 minutes (including 1.5 hours at summit)

All images are property of adktrailtalesandtails and may not be used without express permission.

Jenkins Mountain

05/06/18
I woke up on this Sunday morning itching for a hike. So around 1pm I loaded up my pack, called my hiking buddy, and we hit the road. I was originally planning on hiking St. Regis mountain, but when we pulled up to the trailhead there were several cars still there and I was in a mood to be away from people. So instead we parked at the trailhead on the opposite side of the road and headed into the VIC trails to climb Jenkins Mountain. There were a few people finishing up a fishing adventure, but the lot was otherwise empty, so we took our starting photos and headed off at about 3:00pm.

We stopped to sign in at the register and look at the map before leaving. The route we were taking is outlined in purple. We did end up taking an ill-advised shortcut, but more on that later.

Right at the start of the trail is the beginning of Black Pond, so naturally Juno had to christen our hike with the first swim of the day.

About 10 minutes later we reached the first lean-to on Black Pond. I keep saying I want to come here for stargazing some night, hopefully soon I’ll make it happen!

The trail was surprisingly dry, with only a few spots that were low enough to be flooded from the high water levels as we made our way around the pond. We stopped frequently to view the water and two loons that sporadically surfaced, only to disappear and reappear 5 minutes later halfway across the pond.

Black Pond lean-to visible on the right

About half an hour later we reached the fish barrier dam between Black Pond and Long Pond, and continued straight to skirt Long Pond. Within about 5 feet along this trail we spotted 3 little snakes soaking in the sun in the middle of the path! Somehow Juno missed all of them….I’m not sure that my dog is, in fact, a dog.

At 4:15pm, a little over an hour since we’d left the trailhead, we arrived at the Long Pond lean-to. We checked out the dock for a few minutes before discussing a shortcut we were curious about.

So we noticed on the map that there is a roundabout way to get from our path to the path up the mountain, so we decided to climb up to the ridge to cut out all of the extra path. We scrambled up the side of the ridge, past the privy, and reached the top….only to realize that we would have to descend the other side of the ridge and climb up another adjacent ridge to get back to the trail! I’d just like to state for the record that, while curious about a possible shortcut, it did occur to me that seemingly roundabout paths are usually that way for a reason. So now we know!

We followed this meandering path for quite a while, frequently wondering when on Earth we would start the climb, because up until this point we had been gently ascending and descending alternately. My hiking buddy continually vented frustration that the path was so inefficient, going for a mile in one direction without climbing at all before turning back in the other direction (see the map, haha). I, on the other hand, didn’t mind it. It was a ridiculously easy, gentle climb, and my knees were grateful.

While the climb was very easy, it was made more difficult by all of the blowdown from the recent wind storms. We couldn’t walk 20 feet without having to navigate around fallen limbs and trees. My hiking buddy may have a future in trail work, as he stopped just about every time to clear the trail of debris. It definitely made the descent easier! There wasn’t much to photograph along this trail, besides the occasional teasing glimpse of a view through the trees. Finally, 3 hours after leaving the trailhead (remember that we stop constantly for photos and scenery-viewing…most normal people would have done this much faster!), we reached the last marker before the summit.

Check out all of the blowdown!

We scrambled up to the top to take in the views, have some snacks, and relax.

St. Regis mountain in the center

The views were way more than I was expecting! No one ever talks about this mountain, so I wasn’t sure what the summit would be like, but I was pleasantly surprised.

We hung out up here for about an hour. Upon realization that the sun was setting on the opposite side of the mountain and we wouldn’t be able to watch it, we decided to take our leave. The climb down seemed to take no time at all, and along the way we passed a few cool beaver ponds with frogs singing their cacophonous anthem all around us.

This time, we opted not to take our lovely shortcut but to follow the actual path, and we encountered this gem:

If you’re thinking, “Did a tree fall down, so they removed the section with the trail marker and placed it back on it’s stump?” Then you are correct! You win a pat on the back from yourself. This was so funny, I just had to take a picture. Soon after (9pm) we were back at the Long Pond lean-to checking out the dock again.

The hike out was enjoyable; I submerged my foot in water by making the rookie mistake of thinking a clod of grass in a flooded section of trail was stable, and we saw a MASSIVE salamander while walking on some flooded puncheon! Juno sensed my excitement (I mean it wasn’t hard, I was kind of shrieking in excitement) and started wailing and barking along with me, with NO CLUE WHATSOEVER why she was barking. I wasn’t able to get a picture before he scooted away, but luckily internet has plenty of pictures:

At 10pm we made out way back to the car, passing through another frog chorus so loud it left my ears ringing, and headed home. And hey, NO KNEE PAIN!!!!!! Woohoo!!

Jenkins Mountain: 2513′ Elevation Gain: ~900′ (? There are conflicting numbers for this, but 900 seems right)
Round Trip Distance: 8-9 miles
Total Duration: 7 hours (including 1 hour at summit and countless minutes putzing around)

 

Happy Trails!

Azure Mountain

04/23/18

After being sooo spoiled with amazing weather all weekend, I still hadn’t had enough when Monday rolled around and weather got even nicer. So, naturally, I left work early to go climb something. You might think to yourself, wow that’s irresponsible! But I had a great excuse — It was Juno’s 3rd birthday! What kind of parent would I be if I didn’t treat her to an amazing adventure? So come 3:30pm she and I set off to climb Azure Mountain. My knees are still not 100% so I didn’t want anything too arduous, and this seemed like the perfect option. We reached the trailhead at about 4:30pm and went along our merry way.

Almost immediately Juno shoved her face down into the snow and scooted herself around, tossing and rolling through it. Is…Is this normal for a dog, or….? Either way, it was so funny to watch!

We reached the trail register just a moment later.

I couldn’t believe how much snow was still on the trail and in the woods! Luckily I had worn my gaitors because the snow quickly became a muddy creek, and I didn’t even bother trying to side-step it.

Shortly after that creek the trail started to ascend sharply. Surprisingly I didn’t have a hard time considering how out of shape I must be, and continued up slowly and steadily.

Of course, I had to stop every 6.2 feet to turn around to check out the views during the climb. And I wonder why it takes me so long to climb mountains…..

Along the way, two pairs of people passed us coming down. One group was playing music loudly on a phone, which was pretty irritating to me so I pulled off to the side with Juno to wait for them to pass. After waiting for 5 minutes and not hearing them get any closer, we made our way up and finally passed them…and I had to laugh because it was then so obvious why they were taking FOREVER to climb down…They were woefully unprepared. One of them was literally wearing boat shoes and cargo shorts!

I passed them and laughed so hard. I mean, sure, Azure is an “easy” mountain to climb, but it’s still a freaking Mountain! In April! With a steep trail covered in slush and ice and snow and mud! Sometimes I really wonder about people….I thought they would be the only ones to make such a ridiculous decision, but several minutes later another group passed verrrrry slowly wearing very similar clothes. Even Juno wears boots when hiking! Anyway, about an hour after leaving the trailhead (5:30pm) and 0.9 miles of ascent, we caught our first glimpse of the firetower!

I scampered my way up there, dropped my pack, and ran to the ledge to soak it all in. I never know exactly how long I stand marveling at the view; the second I step foot on a summit all sense of time dissipates and I lost myself to the Adirondacks. The most amazing feeling.

I stayed there for only a moment before go to the right to sit in the sun by “the boulder”.

I lay on my back in the sun there for ages, watching crows fly impossibly far below as the sun sunk lower in the sky, until I noticed Juno starting to eat sticks and other non-edibles, at which point we proceeded to devour our typical ridiculous amount of food (and victory chocolate, of course!).

I decided not to stay up for sunset to facilitate the trip back down, and at about 7pm headed back to the fire tower to check out the views from there. Juno has apparently not learned from previous tower endeavors and followed me right up, much more confidently this time!

We finally took our leave at about 7:45pm. I was actually smart on the way back down and stowed my precious camera in my pack. The descent was partially walking, partially jogging with style, and partially skating. It was…an adventure! There was more than one well-placed tree I used to stop my momentum, and I never fell! (Ok ok I totally fell flat on my ass once, but it was so pathetic it was essentially just me slowly sitting down, so it doesn’t count.). When the trail became muddy again, I joined Juno in jumping in the muddies puddles we could find. Before I knew it we were back at the parking lot just as the moon was peaking through the trees at 8:30pm.

Azure Mountain: 2518′ Elevation Gain: 912′
Round Trip Distance: 1.8 Miles
Total Duration: ~4 hours….including ~2.5 hours at the summit

Mt. Jo

4/21/18

SPRING IS FINALLY HERE! I was seriously thinking that winter would just roll through spring, summer, and autumn, and we’d just be winter year round until I woke up Friday morning and checked the weather for the weekend…60 degrees and sun!! Holy moly theres no way I could stay home on a day like that, so I set my sights on Lake Placid.

Saturday morning, Juno and I got up, packed our bags, and headed out. Our first stop was to see some freaking baby goats at Asgaard Farm!! (We were a little bit excited about this).

I could not believe the amount of cars there. I had to laugh seeing all of the families with little kids, and then there’s just me and my fur-kid powing around. The line to see the newborn goats was crazy long, so we opted instead to see some of the older ones.

Then we stopped by to see some other babies!!

Looking at baby goats really works up an appetite, so Juno and I took our leave after an hour or so and headed into Lake Placid for lunch. I left Juno to nap in the car while I had a delicious meal at the Upstairs Grill (BBQ pulled pork…my stomach is growling just thinking about it now). Afterward, Juno and I went for a stroll around town to help digest the massive amount of food I’d just consumed, while I contemplated an adventure in the mountains. My knee has been slooooowly recovering since last July, so I settled on climbing Mt. Jo. We left the town shortly after arrived at the Loj at about 4:30pm and set off.

Fortunately, though there was of course snow covering the trail, it was not enough to warrant snow shoes, so we had a nice easy ascent going up the shorter, steeper path. Juno was the happiest I’d seen her in a long time, zipping here and there tearing new paths through the snow. I, on the otherhand, took my sweet time like an 102 year old lady so as to not hurt my knee. After about an hour of climbing, we reached the summit!

That moment when I stepped foot on the summit absolutely took my breath away. It felt like my soul could finally breathe again after being away from the Adirondacks for so long. After standing in the sun breathing the mountain air for who knows how long, I set to work taking some photos.

Since it was already like 6:30pm and the sun set at ~7:30, I figured I’d just stay up there to watch the sun set behind the mountains before heading back down. It was so warm when I first got up there, but as that sun went down boy did it get cold! I put on every layer I had in my pack, which included like 3 jackets, mittens, and a fleece cowl, and wrapped a travel blanket tarp thing around my legs to keep warm. (Side note: Juno and I are now starting our own line of ultra fashionable mountain-top gear XD).

Finally the sun began to set and I made my way off the summit to a more convenient ledge to capture the last rays of the day.

I didn’t waste any time in getting off the mountain after that and slid my way down the slushy trail. My knees were feeling so good that I actually jogged down much of the way, giggling like a mad-woman all the while (good thing we had the mountain to ourselves!). We made it down in no time at all without ever even needing to use a headlamp. We left the Loj at about 8:30pm, and stopped along the way to enjoy the stars in the perfectly clear night sky.

 

Looking toward lake placid; You can see the ski jumps towards the middle

Happy and exhausted, we (…I) filled our bellies with ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s and made our way home.

Who knew a half-moon could be so bright?

Day 1 – Las Vegas

 

After being up at 5am for a 7am flight, we arrived after 7 hours of travel in Las Vegas at noon (time zones are so weird). We took some time to become human again (ie. a much needed shower), ate a super delicious home cooked meal, and headed out on the town. I never realized how ubiquitous gambling is in Vegas. That may seem like a stupid revelation, but I mean come on, WHY do you need a slot machine in the grocery store? In every gas station? They’re even at the airport, which is somewhat less surprising, but still.

Our first stop was to see the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, and pay our respects to the memorial for the recent shooting.

The Welcome sign, with the memorial and Mandalay Bay visible in the background

The memorial was incredibly humbling. Seeing the names and faces of all of the innocent victims of a senseless murder spree, the majority of whom weren’t even native to Las Vegas, hit home with a lot of the people visiting, especially when seeing mourning family members placing flowers on the crosses.

The memorial with the light from the Luxor shining vertically in the background

After that uplifting trip, we headed to the Bellagio to see their gardens.

Ceiling of the entrance to the Bellagio

The gardens were incredible! I can’t imagine how much work they put into building and upkeeping the displays. Next, we went outside to the fountains in the front to watch the show, synced with classical music.

We went on our way, heading downtown to explore the nightlife there. We entered a casino, where my family enjoyed playing the poker machines, and I lost $5 to a slot machine. I really don’t understand the appeal of gambling; I work very hard for my money, and don’t want to just feed it to a hungry machine! I’d much rather have something to show for it….so, naturally, my grandmother and I went to a little souvenir shop across the way and spent our hard-earned money on candy 😀 We spent a good deal of time hanging out in that casino, but the omnipresent smoke was really starting to get to all of us, and we took our leave and headed back. Finally, after being awake for ~21 hours, we passed out in our beds.

Day 2 – Zion National Park

 

 

 

 

Gear and Tips

Hiking solo is one of the greatest joys I’ve experienced in my adult life. You learn a lot about yourself when it’s just you and your own two feet conquering a mountain. There are feelings of wonder, peace, and pride at having accomplished something so great on your own. That said, hiking solo isn’t something that I take lightly. I strive to be Prepared, Informed, Strong, and Smart for every single trek, no matter how small. I research the trail location, plan my route, plan for backup routes, check the weather, and check the trail conditions all the day of the expedition. Here’s how it all starts:

Pre-Hiking Prep:

  • Clean and waterproof boots (once per year). I use Camp Dry Water Repellent Spray found here.
  • I wear a baseball cap during buggy months which I coat in Permethrin (once a year) to protect against flies, mosquitos, and ticks. Find it here. 
  • Check trail conditions and weather, inform a friend of mountain name, trailhead location, intended route, estimated time of arrival and estimated time of departure.

What to Wear:

  • Here’s my typical outfit, from bottom to top, for warmer months (spring to fall):
    • Gel Toe Protectors to go on my toes to prevent blisters and calluses. These are THE BEST THING ever. Buy them.
    • Sock Liners to help prevent blisters (I also apply blister bandages to problem areas before I leave)
    • Wool Socks (and I keep a spare pair in my pack)
    • Shorts or Running Pants, or Water Resistant pants, depending on the weather.
    • Synthetic Fiber T-shirt or tank
    • Lightweight running jacket -> I love this, it keeps me cool when it’s warm out, and warm when it’s cool out.
    • Waterproof Windbreaker -> This is absolutely essential. I keep it in my pack at all times. You never know when it might rain, and the summit is usually much cooler than ground  level, not to mention much windier. I’ve gotten chilled even on hot days from the wind hitting my sweaty back, and this has been a lifesaver.
    • Baseball cap for when bugs are out
    • TIP: Avoid wearing ANY cotton while hiking, during any time of the year. Opt for wools and synthetics to help wick moisture away from your skin to keep you dry and prevent blisters.
  • This changes a bit in winter:
    • Socks stay the same
    • I wear Thermal longjohns underneath my Spyder ski pants to keep me warm and dry
    • Thermal longsleeve shirt
    • Lightweight jacket/hoodie
    • Spyder ski jacket
    • Fleece Cowl -> I love this thing, it keeps everything warm, from neck to ears to chin to mouth/nose, and head.
    • Glove Liners -> These are awesome to wear just on their own or under mittens and have fingertips that allow you to use touch screens
    • Mittens -> I clip these to my coat sleeves to remove them easily without losing them

In my Pack:

  • Here’s a list of things I typically keep in my pack during the warmer months:
  • My Pack  carries up to 50L, and while I do like it, I’m considering getting a slightly larger one to accomodate all of my gear. Though I LOVE hiking alone, one of the drawbacks is that I have to carry all of my emergency gear myself, instead of spreading it out across multiple packs. This pack also has a rain fly that you can remove and cover it with to protect the contents.
    • A 3L Camelback  + 1 bottle of water -> Mostly for longer trips/hotter weather. This way, when the camelbak runs dry, I still have 1 bottle left while I search for more water.
    • The day of the hike, I pack my food, and always pack more than I think I’ll need.
    • An extra pair of wool socks and liners
    • Carmex chapstick, hand sanitizer, and tissues
    • Deet Wipes that I use to cover all of my clothes, bare skin, and even my pack. I like the wipes because I’m not inhaling the aerosolized vapors, and I put the used wipes in the mesh pockets of my pack to help keep bugs away. Reapply every couple of hours.
    • Bear Spray for obvious reasons
      • Learn about bear safety HERE
    • Gaitors to keep my legs dry in rain or muddy conditions, or when walking through a stream
    • A Headlamp + extra batteries for those early morning starts or in case of emergency
    • Trailbook and Map for the regions I explore
    • Hiking Poles -> These are decent and retract down to a small size, however be careful that they’re tightened properly before putting weight on them.
    • Water Purifiers -> I carry both Iodine drops and a Life Straw with me
    • I carry This first aid kit + an Ace Bandage + a knee and an ankle brace
    • Stormproof Matches
    • Emergency Kit -> including :
      • Whistle flashlight * 1
      • Multifunction calipers * 1
      • Mosquito Head Net * 1
      • Hand see-saw * 1
      • Flint bracelet * 1
      • Risers * 1 (10M)
      • Fast hang buckle * 2
      • Outdoor emergency blanket * 1
      • Earplug * 1
      • Hooks * 2
      • Fishing line * 1 (33M)
      • Bait * 2
      • Swivels * 2
      • Floats * 6
      • Compass Thermometer * 1
    • I also carry an additional emergency blanket, several large, medium, and small carbiner clips, a Swiss Army multitool, a Tactical Knife, Sunscreen, extra blister bandages, Ibuprofen, Tick-repellent bug spray, a large ziplock bag (which can be used in a variety of circumstances, including keeping my camera dry) in which I keep a roll of TP, a plastic grocery bag, a brick of super high energy emergency food (lasts for like 6 days), an external battery supply charger for my phone, and a waterproof container.
    • From late fall through early spring, I keep a pair of HIGH QUALITY Crampons carbined to the back of my pack, because you literally never know when there might be ice (see Whiteface Mountain, where a lousy pair of crampons broke halfway up the mountain)

I pretty much draw the line for hiking solo at WINTER. It’s too dangerous with too many unknowns, and I mostly only partake in small ventures during these months. Plus I just really, really hate winter. However, during those small ventures, in addition to everything listed above (expect for the bug and bear sprays and sunscreen), I carry snow shoes, a face cover, ski goggles, packs of hand warmers, a beanie, and a thermos full of hot chocolate or tea.

  • Extra Stuff (Camera Supplies)
    • My camera is a Canon Rebel
    • A Lowepro shoulder bag that I carry my camera in outside of my pack
    • A sturdy, reliable tripod that collapses to fit in my pack (barely)
    • A wide angle lens
    • Lens filters, cleaning Q-tips, cleaning cloth, spare battery, spare memory cards

I think that’s about it, though I’m certain I’ve forgotten some things. Now you know why I complain about my pack being so heavy! If you’re still reading this, I hope this helps you plan your own adventures! Any questions, feel free to ask. Happy Trails!

Lyon Mountain

4/23/17

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.

Chazy Lake
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High Peaks
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Wind Farm!

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!

Lyon Mountain: 3830′  Elevation Gain: ~2000′
Round trip distance: ~6.8 miles
Total Duration: ~5 hours
 All images are property of adktrailtalesandtails and may not be used unless with express permission