Despite living only 4 or 5 hours away, I have spent little time in the Adirondacks. This year I promised myself I would get up there, and this past weekend I made good on my promise.
I decided to forego the crowded High Peaks region for my first trip, and visit the Central Adirondacks. We camped at Lake Durant under the summit of Blue Mountain. My only prior Adirondack experience was camping at Lake Durant several years ago for a whitewater kayaking trip on the Indian and Hudson Rivers. Blue Mountain was the first Adirondack mountain I both saw and identified, so I decided it would be the first Adirondack mountain I would climb.
Lake Durant is a beautiful campground. We arrived in the early evening and set up camp. We decided to go for a hike as the sun began to set, so we set off on the Northville-Placid Trail for a 6 mile jaunt that would bring us to Stephens Pond, and darkness.
The northwoods are beautiful with birch, spruce, pine and maple. Sometimes the forest smells almost sweet. The trail was easy as it traversed the twilight woodlands. The trail turned left and descended to the pond, masked in darkness. There was a lean-to where we took a break; surprisingly, we had it to ourselves. We hiked down to the water for a view, but it was too dark to take any decent pictures as the stars sparkled overhead. Stephens Pond is like thousands of other Adirondack ponds- wooded, undeveloped, and serene. Stumps stuck out of the black waters; the pond seemed a little low due to the dry conditions. We turned around with headlamps on and hiked back. The headlamps tunneled through the darkness as we followed the thread of the trail. We covered the three miles back in under an hour.
Blue is a majestic mountain, rising dramtically over several different lakes, with its sides scarred by landslides that expose white bedrock. The trail to the summit is two miles and is a steady climb, but never requires any scrambling. At first the trail was rocky over webs of roots, but as we neared the top, we entered a spruce forest and the trail followed smooth, sloping ledges. The ascent tapered off and we were soon at the top where there was a large exposed ledge, and a nice view below the summit to the southeast. The main attraction is the firetower, which we climbed for even more spectacular views. Blue Mountain Lake glistened below, and the High Peaks loomed in the distance, faded by haze. Ridges, summits, lakes, and ponds stretched off in every direction on a carpet of green forests. The summit was a bit crowded, but the views were excellent and a fine introduction to the ‘Dacks.
Sawyer is a minor peak, but we decided to hike its one mile trail to a summit with some views. The trail rose gradually through the woods and over smooth ledges to a summit with some nice views to the west. Swamps and ponds glistened in the setting sunlight. We retraced our steps and drove to Indian Lake for a bite to eat.
On our final day, I hoped we would climb Snowy Mountain, the highest peak in the Adirondacks south of the High Peaks. But it was clear we wouldn’t have the time. So we decided to climb Chimney Mountain, another modest peak, but famous for its somewhat exposed summit, caves, cliffs, and its famous rock tower, called The Chimney.
We drove on a quiet country road until it reached a dead end at some cabins. It looked like a beautiful, serene place. The trail began by crossing some creeks, a rarity on our hikes, and soon began a steep ascent. The trail reached some rock outcrops and then dipped to a campsite. We followed unofficial trails to the summit where there were beautiful views in all directions. Blue Mountain was in the distance; Snowy Mountain loomed closer. We met a man at the summit who was a 46’er, a person who climbed all the 46 peaks in the Adirondacks above 4,000 feet. He said Chimney Mountain was his favorite place in all of the Adirondacks.
We left the summit and took the trail to The Chimney, a 30 foot tower over a series of cliffs and ledges. It was a fascinating place and the views were excellent. The mountain has a web of unofficial trails and herd paths that lead to other cliffs and the caves, but we did not know where to go. Exploring the caves would have to wait for another day.
We packed up and were soon on the road back home. It was a great trip; the weather was perfect, and the scenery was superb. I hope to return soon to climb Snowy Mountain.