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

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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

Hurricane Mountain

11/19/16

The weather was beautiful, 60+ degrees, sunny, and almost no wind, so of course Juno and I decided to go climb a mountain, spur of the moment. I didn’t feel like getting up at 4am to go climb a 46er though, so we opted instead for Hurricane Mountain, and boy am I glad we did. We left the house at 8am on the dot and arrived at the trailhead on 9N at around 9:40am. Unfortunately, another couple parked right behind us mere moments later, meaning we would probably be leapfrogging each other all day, but we were excited all the same.

We signed in at the register just as the next couple was coming up, then Juno and I took off running up the trail (read: Juno dragged me up the hill at 30 mph). We were soon well ahead of the other people, so I let her off leash to release some of that wild energy.

A few minutes after leaving the trailhead, we encountered a beautiful little stream, so we stopped so I could take pictures and June could splash around. We putzed around for so long that the people behind us passed us up, which was a relief since now we could take all the time in the world to enjoy our hike.

The trail climbed for quite a bit, until we got our first little view at about 0.5 miles. We paused to enjoy the scenery, Juno stretched in the sun, and then we carried on.

The trail was absolutely beautiful. It followed streams for much of the way, and instead of climbing straight up a creek bed as you so often must do when climbing ADK mountains, there were plenty of switchbacks! So it was a very technically easy climb, and we were grateful.

After about half an hour of climbing, the ground leveled out and we were met with nice puncheon through the woods. Juno, however, proclaimed she was too good for puncheon, and opted for a swim in the water below.

This is where the scenery got really interesting. After doing all of that climbing, we seemed to have reached a cool swamp/marsh, where we could see out on either side to the mountains in the distance. It was really muddy and wet all around us, and June had a field day leaping in and out of it, making me shout at her to KEEP GOING, because she kept turning around to come back to me all covered in stinking muck. Typical. After we passed through the marsh, we followed the puncheon back into the woods, and out of them again.

Around this time, the climbing started to pick back up a little bit, and Juno refreshed herself at the last stream we would encounter on the climb up.

Once we passed through this last stretch of evergreen woods, we entered a forest comprised almost entirely of deciduous trees. This was a really unique experience, because since there were no leaves on the trees, we could see all the way out in either direction; during spring and summer you probably can’t see anything. I imagine it could get pretty windy through here, but we had the most perfectly still weather that day, as we saw on the drive down admiring the reflections in still pools of water. I couldn’t really capture it in photo, but here’s one anyway.

Now the real climbing started. I put my camera away to make life a little easier, since I was now holding onto Juno’s leash after I heard some dogs barking up ahead. During the climb, several people with dogs passed us coming down, but none stopped to play with Juno. I always feel bad because all she wants is to run and play, but people never let their dogs have any fun! We passed one nice couple, and the man went right up to Juno talking to her in doggy voice, asking her if she was having fun, and she just smiled away and wagged her tail in response. So cute. Anyway, we continued to climb pretty much straight up (no more switchbacks), and eventually encountered the couple from the parking lot. They informed us we were about 30 minutes from the summit, and we passed them right up and soon came to an incredible overlook at about 2.8 miles.

It was almost tempting to just stay at the overlook ledge because of how far away the firetower at the summit looked, but after a minute or two gathered our resolve and pressed on anyway (nothing is ever as far away as it seems). 15 minutes later and we were standing at the base of the summit, looking up, trying to figure out the best way to get to the top.

We scrambled right up the side, which was a little tricky to do while holding onto Juno’s leash, and made it up onto the first ledge for a gorgeous view.

After a couple more minutes of making our way up the mountain following no trail in particular, we reached the summit! Unfortunately, there were a lot of people of there and almost all of them had dogs, so I never quite made it over to the fire tower (not that I would make the mistake of taking Juno up it anyway, after our experience at Owl’s head). It was very blustery, so we found a nice little niche in the boulders and hunkered down to have a snack and some water, and play with a stick.

Then, of course, I enjoyed my victory chocolate! Never underestimate the rejuvenating power of chocolate…

We met so many people and dogs while we were up there; unfortunately, Juno gets overly excited at the sight of other dogs and starts squealing and yowling, which gets the other dogs to do the same, so we were pretty much confined to our little rocky niche. One older gentleman did come over to greet Juno a few times, he absolutely loved her and asked where I got her because he’s wanted a labradoodle for a very long time. So I told him, and he said he’d be giving them a call that night! I hope so, because he told me he’d climbed this mountain 3 times that week, so any dog of his would be a very happy travel companion.

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Whiteface Mountain in the distance

After he left, Juno and I played and took some photos of ourselves, with much difficulty.

Let’s just say, it was not easy to set the camera up on a steady surface in the wind, run over to another ledge with puppy in tow, and get said puppy into position before the timer went off…

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Look at those ears!

After nearly an hour of hanging out at the summit, we ruefully began our descent. Even knowing that a blizzard would hit the area that very night, I wanted so badly to just stay up there. There’s just something about the mountains; I never get used to their splendor. So I snapped a few more shots, and we started the trek back down.

The descent went so much more quickly; we encountered a ton of people and dogs; a family we passed had been referring to this mountain as ‘Dog Mountain’ because of how many they’d seen! So needless to say, Juno was kept on her leash. About half an hour after leaving the summit, we met a man around my age who was also hiking with his dog, she looked like little lab/pit about Juno’s size, and only a little older. I was so happy, because his dog was off leash and he was totally happy to break for a moment to let our two dogs run and play together. I was a bit (i.e. EXTREMELY) jealous, because he was going up to watch the sunset, but it was sooo nice to see Juno running around with someone who could actually keep up with her! After a few minutes of playing, Juno could no longer instigate the other pup into chasing her around (but not for lack of trying), so we said our goodbyes and carried on. The rest of the descent was uneventful and we made it back to the car at about 3pm. This will definitely be a mountain I climb again, in early summer when the wild flowers are in bloom. What an incredible hike.

Hurricane 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.