Winter Hiking

Living in New York State we get winter, or something that resembles it depending on the year. I’ve learned to embrace it because it can be long and cold. Over the past few years I’ve been out and about our local parks and trails hiking with my snowshoes. I find winter hiking to be some of the most beautiful and peaceful time to be outdoors. Recently I had the opportunity to change things up a little. So I hopped in my car and headed for the Adirondacks.

A few hours later I arrived at the trailhead of the 3759 foot summit of Blue Mountain. This 2 mile trail (One Way) climbs 1670 feet in elevation with moderate to steep grades, ending at the fire tower. At the trailhead I met my friend Nancy an experienced hiker who would go with me since this would be my first winter hike with considerable elevation.

We decided that we didn’t need snowshoes and that micro spikes would be sufficient since the trail was very well packed. This is a very popular hike in any season. It was sunny and in the low 30’s when we began and quickly I had to stop to remove my jacket putting in my backpack. The trail climbed steeply as we bumped into our first hikers coming down from the summit around the one mile mark. We stopped and chatted for a little before continuing. We would see three more before reaching the summit.

The closer we got to the summit the snow got deeper, the temperatures colder and you could feel the wind picking up through the trees. Just before coming out of the tree line I stopped and layered back up before exposing myself to the open summit. Stepping out into the open the Blue Mountain fire tower stood proudly at an additional 35 feet encrusted in snow and ice.

Climbing the tower to the observers tower the wind was whipping pretty good and my fingers were so cold even through my gloves while trying to take some photos. The stairs were covered in at least 6 inches of snow and ice and the cabin had at least a foot of snow inside. The handrails were also encased in ice.

Even though there was a vast temperature difference between the base and summit the warm sun was doing its best to remove Mother Nature’s grasp. Chunks of ice had begun to fall off the tower like crystals falling from a chandelier crashing to the ground into pieces. The trees at the summit were encrusted in snow and ice giving them a powdered sugar look, it was breathtaking.

We spent about an hour at the summit taking in the sheer beauty, chatting with a few hikers who had come up the trail shortly behind us. I was completely hooked on winter hiking.

Once down and back to my car, putting my gear away it was time to head south to Old Forge where I would spend the night. But not before a stop at Fulton Chain Craft Brewing for a couple of well earned beverages.

I absolutely loved this experience and I hope to do some more winter hiking in the Adirondacks  in the future.

Nancy signing us into the trail register Blue Mountain Lake, NY © Joe Geronimo
Paused to take in the view as I make my way towards the summit of Blue Mountain. Photo by Nancy Lyons.
Nancy snaps a few photos as well. © Joe Geronimo
Arrived the summit of Blue Mountain. © Joe Geronimo
The 35 foot Blue Mountain fire tower stands encrusted in Mother Nature’s fury. © Joe Geronimo
The view of Blue Mountain Lake and others from the fire tower’s cabin. © Joe Geronimo
The summit of Blue Mountain provides a window into the eastern Adirondack high peaks. © Joe Geronimo
Making my way back down the trail from the summit of Blue Mountain. © Joe Geronimo

 

Bum Rushing Beaver Dams & the Browns Tract Inlet

On Friday afternoon I nibbled at another small portion of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. The weather was cold and windy with lots of sunshine. I arrived in the hamlet of Raquette Lake, NY at 1240.  A small amount of gear loaded into my canoe I set off into the rather large Raquette lake in order to reach “Browns Tract Inlet”. This lake is notoriously windy, thankfully it was a short distance to the inlet.

Almost immediately after entering the inlet I encountered my first beaver dam which spanned the entire width of the waterway. I thought great now what.. Water was too deep to exit the boat and drag it over, I was stumped! Backing up I paddled hard right into it and got the bow of my canoe about 3 inches over it. Freeing myself I went back a little further and really got after it and this time I maybe got 4-5 inches of the canoe over the dam. Ok I was pissed but determined! I decided to head back out of the inlet turn and paddle for all I was worth hitting the dam sending my canoe halfway over. Now I was stuck! Separating my paddle I work my way over and voila.

The Browns Tract snakes like an Adirondack back road. The wind was whipping right up the tract and what I thought would be a leisurely paddle turned out to be an olympic event. I encountered four beaver dams on my journey but only one of them I had to actually exit the boat and drag it over. It was a 3 mile paddle to the western end where the tract sports a wooden pier. This pier is for paddlers that carry the 1.5 miles between 8th lake and Browns Tract Inlet to put in on the inlet. Its tradition that through paddlers of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail begin at the western terminus in Old Forge and paddle the 740 miles east to Fort Kent, ME. But then again traditions can be broken.

I was thinking that my return would have the wind at my back but I was completely wrong. Again I was olympic paddling all the way back to Raquette lake. Despite some of the difficulty I was glad to have had the opportunity to complete this small piece in the very large NFCT puzzle.

Once I was back to shore and gear reloaded I broke out the Jetboil and enjoyed a cup of warm soup sitting lakeside. As I glanced across the lake I envisioned continuing my Pac-Man approach to the trail. At this time and place I have no desire to be a through paddler of the NFCT. I like having the option to pick and choose my boat that best suites the waters I will be adventuring, a luxury through paddlers do not have. In a perfect world I’d just assume pick and choose my weather as well. But as they say in the Adirondacks “Wait 10 minutes” the weather will change.

As I departed the small village of Raquette Lake my turn signal bulb blew out. Where does one find a replacement bulb in the middle of the Adirondacks? Three miles up Route 28 I tried my luck at Burke’s Marina. Sure enough they had a bulb and a phillips head screw driver to boot. I changed the bulb and was on my way. One thing that caught my eye while paying for the bulb was the free packs of matches advertising the Marina sitting on the counter. I could not resist and grabbed a few as you very rarely see this anymore.

Onto my next adventure!

Beginning my adventure into the Browns Tract Inlet at Raquette Lake, NY, september 1st 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Northern Forest Canoe Trail Kiosk and DEC register Raquette Lake, NY September 1st 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Along the Browns Tract Inlet September 1st 2017. © Joe Geronimo
At the western end of Browns Tract Inlet September 1st 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Arriving back at Raquette Lake, NY September 1st 2017. © Joe Geronimo
I’ve exited Browns Tract and entered Raquette lake. Blue Mountain can be seen towering in the distance September 1st 2017. © Joe Geronimo