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29 May 2013

Memorial Day Weekend in the Adirondack Mountains of New York

For the 2013 Memorial Day weekend, Cheri (my wife) and I made the 4-hour drive from our home in Bethlehem, NH to Saranac Lake, NY.  This charming village is centrally located in the high peaks region of the Adirondacks.

DAY 1:

Most of the first day of our 4-day weekend was spent driving over to NY in conditions that were unusual for late May, even for northern NH and NY!  Along our route we experienced both snow and rain.  Yikes!

DAY 2:

By Day 2, the snow had subsided, but the rain continued.  We made the most of the rainy conditions by taking our umbrellas and visiting locations where we could view waterfalls, brooks, and rivers that were wildly raging due to all the rain.  The next two photos show some scenes along the West Branch of the Ausable River.
Raging waters along West Branch of Ausable River
Raging cascade along West Branch of Ausable River
And shown below is yet another photo from Day 2.  This is a more sedate scene from the shore of a beaver pond.
View from shore of beaver pond on a rainy, misty day
DAY 3:

Day 3 was a day filled with gorgeous weather. Cheri opted to spend a portion of the day soaking in the sun on the shore of Lake Flower and reading a novel.  And, she also walked into the village of Saranac Lake to witness the Memorial Day parade.  Shown below is a photo Cheri took of this event.
Memorial Day parade in Village of Saranac Lake, NY
A portion of my Day 3 was spent hiking to Catamount Mountain (3,168 ft elevation).  This trek provided lots of rock scrambles which is something I thoroughly enjoy.

The next photo shows Catamount Mountain as viewed from the roadside just a short distance from the trailhead.
Catamount Mountain as viewed the roadside just a short distance from the trailhead
The first 1.3 mile or so of the trail is mild-mannered.  But after that, the fun begins with a scramble up a narrow chimney which is nearly vertical.  How narrow is it?  Well, anyone who has met me knows that I'm a fairly skinny guy.  I was unable to squeeze through it with a frontal approach.  I was able to squeeze through it by turning sideways.  However, it necessitated taking off my backpack and pushing it up ahead of me.

Shown below is a composite photo of the chimney, but it doesn't do justice to the narrowness of this passageway.
Narrow chimney along the trail to Catamount Mountain
Within minutes after negotiating the chimney, I arrived at the top of the south summit of Catamount.  From there, I was able to get a view of the main summit of Catamount (see next photo).  The climb to the main summit was an exhilarating scramble.  I loved it!
Main summit of Catamount Mountain as viewed from south summit
Upon reaching the main summit of Catamount, I relished the 360 degree views.  One of the more impressive views is the one shown in the next photo.  At the bottom left is the south summit of Catamount.  Off in the distance on the right is the snowcapped Whiteface Mountain with Esther Mountain in front and to the left of it.
South summit of Catamount (bottom left); snowcapped Whiteface Mountain at top right
The next photo is a zoomed view of Whiteface Mountain.
Zoomed view of Whiteface Mountain
Although the quality of the next photo is poor, it sort of shows what I could see with my binoculars when looking eastward toward Vermont.  In this zoomed photo, you can see portions of Lake Champlain. And in the top center of the photo, you can see the snowcapped Mt. Mansfield which is over 50 miles away in VT, as the crow flies.
Highly zoomed photo: Lake Champlain with snowcapped Mt. Mansfield at top center
The next photo doesn't do justice to the overall scene.  What I'm attempting to show is the contrast between the flowering shrubs at the top of Catamount, as juxtaposed to the snow that covers the mountaintop.
Flowering shrubs at top of Catamount, as juxtaposed to the covering of snow
Before leaving Catamount, I took a photo of the metal benchmark disc embedded at the top of the mountain.
Metal benchmark disc at the highpoint of Catamount
Toward the end of Day 3, Cheri and I drove a short distance out of the village of Saranac Lake to the Adirondack Loj on Heart Lake.  Lodging is available at this location, and it's a major trailhead for several mountains in the high peaks region of the Adirondacks.  Along the road leading to this location are impressive views such as seen in the next photo.  Mt. Colden is on the left, and peaks in the MacIntyre Range are on the right.
View from Adirondack Loj Road: Mt. Colden (left); peaks in MacIntyre Range (right)
Day 4:

On Day 4, we packed up and started to head for home via a route that was different from the way we came.  We decided to head north toward Plattsburgh, NY and then onward nearly to the Canadian border (at Rouses Point, NY) where we would cross over the top of Lake Champlain and head eastward to our home in Bethlehem.

At Plattsburgh, we made a short stopover in order to walk to the end of Dock Street to look across Lake Champlain and enjoy the views of the Vermont mountains.  The next two photos provide some idea of what we saw.  The first snapshot is a wide view that is un-zoomed.  The second photo is a zoomed view of Camels Hump mountain as seen through the masts of several sailing ships moored at the docks.
View from Plattsburgh, NY looking across Lake Champlain toward Vermont mountains
Zoomed view of Camels Hump mountain from docks in Plattsburgh, NY
To sum it up, Cheri and I agreed that this was one of the more enjoyable Memorial Day weekends that we've spent in quite a number of years. 

12 comments:

  1. That's a great looking weekend you had there John. Sure was some crazy weather we had. I was in NH and it sure was wet and cold. The Adirondack Mountains have been on my "to-do" list for a very long time. Your report confirms it is something I need to just get moving and do.

    Great photos, thanks for sharing,
    Joe

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    1. Hi Joe,

      Regarding the Adirondacks, I’ve only scratched the surface in terms of hiking over there. It’s a whole new “playground” to explore, and it’s every bit as beautiful as the Whites. Since the Adirondacks and the Whites are nearly 200 miles apart, it involves several hours of driving (not to mention gas, food, lodging) to travel between these two “playgrounds”. I admire those folks who manage to hold down a full-time job and yet are somehow able to thoroughly explore both the Whites and the Adirondacks.

      Glad you liked the photos, and I thank you for taking time to post your comments.

      John

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  2. John, this sounds like an idyllic weekend for you and Cheri. Tim's best friend from college owns a home on a lake in the southern Adirondacks and, when we lived in PA, we used to visit him quite often. There's so much to see and do there, and it looks like you filled the long holiday weekend with plenty of satisfying activities.

    I love the picture of the raging water of the Ausable. Wow! Also the zoomed photo taken through the sailboat masts is very creative!
    The trail to Catamount mountain looks like fun too.

    Thanks for sharing another great adventure in the northeastern US!

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    1. Hi Rita,

      The mountainous regions of NY, VT, NH, and ME area all so delightful. It would be difficult for me to chose one as a favorite. And I’m certain that (with good reason) you feel the same about the mountainous areas of the western States near to your home in UT.

      It’s wonderful to have such a large selection of places to visit for a long weekend, or for a longer stay. However, with so many choices, it sometimes makes it difficult to choose a venue. But, I’ll readily accept the “burden” of that type of “problem”! :-)

      Thank you for comments, Rita!

      John

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  3. Sounds like you had a great weekend in the 'dacks, despite less-than-perfect weather. Great photos from Catamount - that looks like a terrific hike. And a beautiful capture of the classic Adirondak Loj vista. There's so much over there it would take years to fully explore it. I highly recommend a subscription to "Adirondack Explorer," a great publication that comes out every other month and has lots of stuff on hiking and other outdoor pursuits as well as coverage of Adirondack Park conservation issues.

    Steve

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  4. Hi Steve,

    Many thanks for your comments! Also, thank you for your recommendation regarding the “Adirondack Explorer”. Just went to their website, and wow! I can clearly see why you recommended this.

    Regarding the Catamount trek, I owe a debt of gratitude for having this hike recommended to me by a staffer at the Paul Smith's VIC (Visitor Interpretive Center). This guy was so much like you in that he has intimate knowledge of the mountains, and is more than willing to share his knowledge in a clear, concise manner. He took the time to carefully listen to what type of hiking I like, how much time I had to spend on a hike, etc, and then recommended Catamount as a top pick.

    And lastly, you are so accurate in your statement about it taking years to fully explore the Adirondacks. Each time I go over there, I feel like a kid visiting a candy shop with a mindboggling inventory of treats!

    John

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  5. Looks like a fantastic trip, the waterfalls are amazing, but of course there was plenty of water to really make them roar! Seems you've found another Whiteface, too. LOL. The climb up that chimney sounds like fun - definitely something I'd do. We still must have some little kid in us, to like stuff like that.

    Interesting comment regarding Paul Smith's VIC. We've looked into Paul Smith's College as possible future education for one of our children. Maybe some trips to the Daks will be in my future.

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    1. Hey Summerset,

      It’s uncanny that you should mention the chimney in your comments, especially since the thought of you and your experiences with the Osceola chimney passed through my mind while I was negotiating the chimney on Catamount.

      Regarding Paul Smith’s College, I know nothing about their course offerings, etc, but do know that the location of the campus is absolutely striking! When the time is right, I would encourage you to take a trip over there to visit the college, and of course, work in a hike or two as well! :-)

      Thanks for taking time to post your comments!

      John

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  6. Great photos. Cut my teeth hiking in ADKs. Always say I'm going to go back, but truly "can't get thar" easy from NH.

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    1. Thanks Peter for your comments!

      Just like you, I also ‘cut my teeth” hiking in the Adirondacks! I try to get over there now and then, but as you also indicate, it’s a bit of an undertaking to get there from NH.

      John

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  7. Hi John- beautiful shots!

    I was wondering how the black flies tend to be during Memorial Day up in the dacks and whites? I want to plan a nice, challenging loop to escape the bugs and crowds if possible. Any suggestions?

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    1. Hi Cole,

      Well, I definitely don’t want to discourage you from doing a visit to the White Mountains and/or to the Adirondacks. However, it has been my experience that the biting insects are usually at their worst from about mid May until the end of June. But, if that is the only time frame that is available to you, then I’d encourage you to come anyway. If you use bug repellent, and keep moving, then it can be a tolerable situation.

      As to suggestions about where to hike, etc., that really gets into the area of personal preference. What I like, and what others like, can be two completely different things. If you’ve not already done so, perhaps your best bet is to use an Internet search engine (Google, etc) to find hikes that might interest you. And/or you might consider investing in White Mountain guidebooks available at this link: http://amcstore.outdoors.org/books-maps; and/or Adirondack guidebooks that are available at this link: http://www.adk.org/shop-online.php.

      Thanks for taking time to read and reply to my blog!

      John

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