Cabin Life – #107

I’d like to tell you that it’s been a long couple of weeks out at the cabin.  That, Ice on a sprucehowever, would not be the truth.  The truth is, it’s been a couple of very lazy weeks lounging around in the comfort of an actual house.  The weather has been terrible and I was having to hike into the cabin and my firewood is running low and I was sick of dragging a forty pound jug of water a quarter mile uphill twice a week.  So I’ve been staying at my girlfriends with Pico and Herbie.  And the Levine men have officially taken over the couch.

I’m still formally living at the cabin, but it has been a nice break.  After three winters, I needed some time away from the work and cold and frustration of a house with no indoor plumbing.  The chickens are still out there, and are doing well.  As the days get longer, the nights haven’t been as cold, and they are doing fine.  I go out to the cabin pretty much every day, so even though I was still having to do the hike in, at least I wasn’t having to haul my laundry and bags of dog food and cat litter up that hill.

But speaking of hills, a friend invited me to climb a couple of High Peaks this past weekend.  I needed to get out of the house and just said yes when he texted me.  I didn’t realize that it was going to be a twenty four mile ski/snowshoe/hike.  But we headed out at about six am on Saturday to climb Cliff and Redfield mountains.  Twelve hours and forty-five minutes later, we struggled out of the woods and back to my car.

I drove to my girlfriend’s and stumbled in the door.  I literally could not move a muscle without moaning in pain, but I made it through the night without dying.  The next morning, as I painfully and stiffly made my way across the living room, she convinced me that best way to beat the soreness was to go for a walk or hike.  Now, keep in mind, she was not volunteering to go with me, just basically telling me to get out.  I think my moaning may have been worse than I thought.

I decided to head out to the cabin to feed the chickens and make sure they still had water, and very gingerly hopped in my car.  It’s about a twenty minute ride to the cabin, and every second of the way I was annoyed about the upcoming hike up the driveway.  I could barely walk on the flat, warm floor of the house, how was I possibly going to make it up the driveway.

As I got nearer to the cabin, I noticed that my neighbors were at their camp down the road.  I figured I’d take care of the girls and then head over to say high.  But as I neared the end of the road by my driveway, I was taken by the most magical sight I could behold at that moment:  My driveway was plowed.

I cracked a huge grin and smiled the whole way up the driveway.  I knew that my neighbor had come down and plowed with his tractor, and I was so happy I actually whooped with joy.  The thought of having a clear driveway again after two months was too much to handle.  I hugged the chickens and rubbed Pico’s belly until he got sick of it and ran down the driveway.

I took care of everything at the cabin and went down the road to say thanks to the neighbors.  I gave him a hug and promised to drop off a few gallons of diesel fuel in payment.  This one kind act changed my whole outlook on the last month or so of the winter.  It seemed as if so many problems had been solved by this one incredibly kind gesture.  My mood was lifted and my spirit sunny.  The neighbor s told me they were happy to help, but that they wouldn’t be back for a few weeks.

All of those warm feelings stayed with me until I got back and checked the weather forecast.  Twenty inches of snow predicted.  It’s amazing how fast the wind got sucked out of my sails.  Not that it’s all bad.  I know that the snow is here for a limited time, but it was so nice driving into the cabin a couple of times.  I can’t thank my neighbors enough for plowing, even if the openness only last for a few days.

Gear Review – Osprey Talon 33 Backpack

I purchase the Osprey Talon 33 backpack two months ago.  I have used it in a variety of conditions and am pleased by its performance.

I bought the pack to use on search and rescue missions for Search and Rescue of the Northern Adirondacks, however I used it on several hikes and Osprey Talon 33cross-country ski trips before being called out on my first search.  I use the NASAR pack contents as a guide for what I should carry.  I added some more stuff than they recommend, but also eliminated a few things.  I see no need to carry a tracking stick when I have no idea how to use it effectively, but a folding saw can come in handy when you’re in a thick alder swamp with only a couple of feet of visibility.

The pack had some extra room in it even with all the stuff I carry.  I use a couple of water bottles instead of a bladder, so with a bladder there would be enough room in this pack for a summer overnight.  While out skiing with the pack the first time, I was satisfied with the way the hip belt carries the load.  I did not have to deal with the pack shifting a lot, even over several layers of clothes.

I found that the small mesh pockets on each shoulder strap are very convenient for holding an energy packet or something else small.  I didn’tOsprey Talon 33 want to put a knife in there as the pockets are open at the top, but securely stored my multi-tool in the zippered pocket on the hip belt.  It’s easy to get to and in no danger of falling out.  I stash a compass in the other hip belt pocket, but they are large enough for a small digital camera as well.

My favorite design feature of the Talon 33 is the number of pockets, with very little on the outside of the pack to get hung up on brush.  After two days searching through alder swamps, off-trail through old growth and across rock ledges, the pack never got hung up once on any brush or rocks.  I was able to move through the brush easier because of the streamlined design of the pack.

However, there are actually nine pockets in addition to the main compartment and the beaver tail.  Two water bottle pockets on either side, one on each shoulder strap and hip belt, two on top of the hood, and a zippered mesh pocket on the inside of the hood.  Small things are very easy to access while still being secure.

I put my personal identification, keys, and phone in a baggie and put them in Osprey Talon 33the zippered mesh pocket.  I kept a notebook and maps in the top pocket, rain cover on the side, and crampons and gaiters in the beavertail.  I had no issue with a lack of storage with this pack.

The downsides are few in my opinion.  The shoulder straps are comfortable, light, and airy, but a little flimsy.  I can’t help but look at the padding through the mesh and wonder when it will start to rip.  The back also isn’t quite stiff enough.  I always carry a small foam pad to sit on, and it helped stiffen up the back a little bit.  The location of the water bladder is in the usual spot against your back, so using a bladder will probably cause the typical back bulge and make it less comfortable.

All in all, I am really happy with my purchase.  It does what I need it do, and even a little more.

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Cabin Life – #90

Growing up, I lived in only two houses.   Both had fireplaces, so fall was The Lower Fieldalways special to me.  From eating roasted pumpkin seeds in front of the fire to cuddling under a blanket and watching a movie while the snow fell outside, we usually had a fire going if we were home for the night.  I miss those days, but I have taken a big step towards making the cabin more like the home of my childhood.

Last week, my new (new to me) stove was delivered and installed.  There’s a shiny new chimney poking up above the peak of the cabin, and gone is the huge black box that was my old woodstove.  Of course, on the day the stove was delivered, it was close to seventy degrees out, so I could not get a fire going right away.  That did not stop me from sitting and staring at the new stove with its nice glass doors, just beckoning me to get a fire going and sit there enjoying the flames for the first time in years.

After the delivery guys left and the stove was all set, I had to do something to get myself away from the stove.  I won’t lie, I was giddy like a little school girl getting a new doll or videogame or whatever it is that giddy little girls get all giddy about nowadays.

I tore myself away and took Pico for a quick walk down the road.  We don’t get a whole lot of traffic down here, so for about a mile down the road, we’re pretty much assured we won’t run into anyone.  I take these opportunities to let Pico run around and smell whatever animal poop may be on the road.  He loves it, and I love seeing how happy he is to add his scents to the markings of bear, bobcat, and fox.

But believe it or not, I had yet to see a fox out here.  They’re not uncommon in this area, and it’s rarely more than a couple of weeks between sightings when I’m driving to or from work or town.  As we crested the small rise in the road near my neighbor’s camp, Pico stopped suddenly.  I looked up, and down the road about a hundred yards there stood a small red fox, more brown than red really.

He had seen us too, and as I sternly whispered “stay” to Pico, the fox stood his ground.  He was turned broadside to us, and the deep rusty brown of his fur was shining in one of the few sunbeams poking through the trees.  He and Pico stared at each other for a few seconds before Pico gave a quick wag of his tail.

The fox responded in kind, and slowly made his way across the rest of the road and into the fall woods.  Pico looked up at me with his goofy grin and trotted off the pee on some small shrub on the roadside.  I decided that we should turn around there, instead of getting too close to where the fox had been.  I didn’t want Pico bothering him, and I didn’t want him bothering us either.

When we got back to the cabin, I realized that that was the first fox we had come across, and probably the first fox Pico had ever seen.  I liked his reaction, and even though that very same fox could eventually end up with one of my chickens as his dinner, I was glad to have seen him just the same.

I impatiently waited another hour for the sun to go down, and got a small fire going in the new stove.  I sat there and watched the flames licking the top of the stove, glad to be able to add to the ambiance of the cabin.  If this place was lacking anything, it was lacking a fire you could see.  The weather has still been too hot to have another fire, but now I’m in no rush.  The stove is here, and long nights of sitting in front of the fire are something I can actually look forward to.

Be sure to like Middle of the Trail on Facebook for more pictures and daily updates and follow @JustinALevine for whatever it is I do on Twitter.

Cabin Life – #31

I was watching the sun come up over the Vermont mountains, listening to Pico splash in the lake and really appreciating the bug free morning.  The haziness of the air made for a nice sunrise, all pinks and purples.  Pico loves the water, even though I have to give him a warm-up throw or two of the ball to get him to really swim.  But once he’s in, he loves it.

Ed caught a mouse last night.  At three in the morning.  And he wouldn’t kill it.  He just walked around for half an hour with the poor thing in his mouth.  Every couple of minutes Ed would drop him just to catch him again.  He was growling at Herbie and Pico and me.  Finally I just picked Ed up and carried him outside, where he dropped the mouse and it ran off. 

I’m no fan of mice, especially in my house, but I was surprised when it ran off.  As far as I know, it’s only the second mouse Ed’s ever caught.  And he responded to my travesty of releasing his prey by knocking a glass onto the floor, shattering it.  He maintained eye contact the entire time.  Now, the next time this happens, I will be faced with the decision of letting him torment the mouse or incurring Ed’s wrath.  Well, sorry little mice, but I gotta live with that cat.

Snow’s Gone…

Just a few shots from the record warm of the last few days…

Whiteface in the Morning

Chillin' in the Shade

Ha ha! Wasn't that long ago...

Cabin Life – #4

Woke up normal time, between four and five in the morning.  I usually get up a few times a night to stoke the fire, but the stove has been burning well for the last couple of weeks.  I still like to get up and throw a couple of logs on, and to be sure the fire doesn’t go out, I set an alarm for 10:30pm, 12:30am, and 2:00am.

Got up, checked the fire, finished the book “Boomerang” that I got from the library and tried to fix my car window.  The driver’s window is stuck about halfway down, and since its winter, I really need to get it fixed.  But I don’t feel like going anywhere today, especially since I have to drive with the window down.  No, it’s better to put some plastic over it and wait a day or two to head to the mechanic.

Getting up so early and often generally requires that I take a nap during the day.  Since I get up so early, nap time is usually around 9:00am, which sounds weird, because most people have just gotten out of bed or are just getting to work.  But by nine, I’ve been up about five hours, and it’s nice to get a little more shut-eye.  When I lay down, the wind was blowing and the sky was overcast, but it was warm and there was a steady pat-pat-pat of water dripping off the roof.

When I woke up around noon, I glanced out the big window and could not see the trees on the other side of the yard.  They are maybe 150 yards away, but it was a white out.  The wind was raging, and snow was blowing everywhere.  The screened-in porch had about a half inch of accumulation despite the screens, there were a few inches on the ground while Pico turned white with snow after about a minute outside.

Since I had plenty of water in my brand new 5 gallon jug and lots of food, hunkering down didn’t seem like such a bad option.  It would be downright enjoyable if I had another little nine volt battery so I could listen to NPR once in a while, but I killed the last battery yesterday.  With all this indoor time on my hands, there’s really only one thing to do:  Clean.

I had a roommate for the last couple of months, but he’s gone now, so I set to making the cabin a little less like a weekend retreat and more like a home.  The biggest thing I have to do is the dishes.  There’s four knives, a bowl, a fork, and a small sauce pot to be washed.  It’s not that I don’t eat at home or cook, but I generally use paper plates and bowls, along with plastic silverware and cast-iron pans.  I know, I hate using the disposable stuff, but it’s really hard to do the dishes out here with no running water.  Plus, at least the paper dishes can go into the stove and produce some heat for the place.  Using the stuff twice, that’s my justification.

The propane stove is lit and the tea kettle is on.  There’s a big Tupperware in the sink to hold the hot water.  I have dish soap and a dish rag too.  Then the process begins.  I’ve put the five gallon jug on to two small pieces of 2×4 to raise it a little.  I wash in the hot water, rinse with the cold water.  It’s enough of a pain that I am still going to use mostly disposable stuff, but it only takes a few minutes to wash the dishes.  Trust me, this is a big step up in lifestyle.

I rearrange some other things so that I can sit on the couch in front of the big window and decide that that’s enough productivity for one day.  After all, I got all winter out here.  The storm is still blowing and the forecast now says that the high temperature tomorrow is going to be 1.  There’s about 6 inches of snow on the driveway, and I have to get it plowed for the first time this year.

But it’s nice to just sit inside by the fire once in a while.  There’s subtle pops from the woodstove and all three animals are snoring.  The sound of a fat cat snoring makes me want to crawl back into bed, but I have to head outside and get another arm load of wood.

Hurricane Irene Trail Work – Week One

Debris pile at outflow of Avalanche Lake

During the second or third year of my tenure in Jacksonville, FL, Tropical Storm Faye came through the area and dumped a bunch of rain.  Nothing much happened other than some flooding in a few neighborhoods.  But since Jacksonville sits at sea level and has an enormous river running smack through the middle of it, the flooding was nothing new or unique.  Or even all that dangerous.       

Then, during the summer of 2011, on a beautiful August Saturday in Upstate New York, I got a phone call from the regional office telling me that we had to evacuate the campground due to Hurricane Irene, which was steaming up the Eastern Seaboard and heading straight for us.  You can imagine my dread at having to kick about a thousand people out of Ausable Point on a gorgeous day in the middle of their vacations because of a hurricane.  Surprisingly, we really didn’t run into any trouble as everyone seemed to be comforted by the fact that they were going to get a refund and come back after the storm had passed.  But here I was, in beautiful Upstate New York, and for the first time, I was a little worried about a hurricane.

Medium-sized moose track

When Irene finally reared her ugly head, she was a monster.  Hundreds of miles of roads were washed away, houses, businesses, and buildings were knocked off their foundations and thousands of people were without power for anywhere from a day to more than a week.  Ausable Point did not escape the destruction.  The campground was without power for a full week and there were dozens of trees knocked down.  I counted about 175 rings in one red pine.

The severity of the storm tested the resources of the state and utility companies.  It took about a week for everyone to wrap their heads around what had just happened.  Irene dumped more than eleven inches of rain in less than 24 hours.  It was somewhere in the neighborhood of a 500-year flood.

The Eastern High Peaks Wilderness and the Dix Mountain Wilderness got hit the hardest out of the wild areas up here.  High winds and the torrential downpours guaranteed a changed backcountry landscape as soon as anyone could penetrate it to find out.  The wilderness areas had been evacuated, but there were still a few people who stayed (and were allowed to stay) in the woods.  The ADK crew at Johns Brook Lodge and the state caretaker at Marcy Dam were a few of the brave people out there.  When the storm was over, there were dozens of new landslides, huge stretches of trails were gone and bog and stream bridges were reduced to kindling.  There was debris stuck in tree branches ten feet off the ground.  The magnitude of the damage was staggering.

Needless to say, after the storm, all resources went to helping the people and towns that had been slammed by the flooding.  Once the heavy cleanup was done and there was some breathing room, the state started to tackle the problem of the High Peaks.  Labor Day was coming up, and it is always a big hiking and tourist weekend, and the state desperately wanted to make sure that the trails were safe so the public could enjoy them (and out-of-towners could help defray the cost with their tourist bucks).

Lake Colden Interior Outpost

Since I love to hike and am certified to run a chainsaw (and already work for the state), I was tapped to do emergency trail crew for a week.  Actually it was more like a blitz than a crew.  Close to one hundred people assembled at the Mount Van Hovenburg Ski Center for debriefing.  I was told to show up and got no other information.  Worried that I would be under-prepared for whatever it was we were about to do, I packed for a four-day, three-night stay in the woods.  Tent, food, sleeping bag, clothes, etc., plus all my chainsaw gear, including heavy boots, chaps, and a hardhat.  When I got there, only a few people seemed to have more than a day pack.

Mt. Colden from the Flowed Lands

Seeing my enormous amount of gear, two of the guys in charge pulled me from a crew that was doing day hikes and put me in with four other people who were going to stay in the woods for the four days.  I found out that we would be staying at the Lake Colden Interior Outpost and that I didn’t need my tent or a couple of other things.  I still had a ton of stuff in my bag and it was topping out at about 45 pounds, plus I had to wear my hardhat and carry a chainsaw and a two and half gallon jug of gasoline.  This was by far the heaviest pack I had carried in a long time, if not ever, and we had a 6.5 mile hike through some of the roughest backcountry terrain in the state.

Leaving the Adirondack Loj trailhead and heading south, we were going to have to hike about 3.5 miles to Marcy Dam (the dam and bridge were wiped out by the storm) and then through Avalanche Pass on to Lake Colden.  It was going to be a rough hike, but luckily the four other people I had just met and agreed to go into the woods with were turning out to be really friendly folks.  But, as our individual paces strung us out along the trail, I had plenty of time to wonder just what I had gotten myself into.

I had never hiked through Avalanche Pass, and I knew the reputation was rough.  And that was before it had gotten hit by a hurricane and a bunch of new landslides.  Winding my way over boulders the size of school buses and using ladders and planks to navigate around them in wet conditions would have been bad enough, but I was extra top heavy due to the massive pack on my back and I also didn’t have either hand free due to the saw and fuel.  I was glad Pico had not been invited on this trip.

Looking up Avalanche Lake

Then we got to the Hitch-Up-Matilda’s, a series of boardwalks attached to the cliff face about half way down Avalanche Lake.  The cliffs drop straight into the water for a stretch of several hundred yards, and way back in the day, metal supports were drilled into the cliff and 2×6 planks were attached so that hikers didn’t have to swim that portion of the “trail.”  The lake got so high during the flooding from Irene that most of the planks had floated off the supports (even though they were bolted on) and were MIA (as we walked over them, the planks were about four feet above water level).  After negotiating the missing planks and climbing over a massive debris pile at the south end of the lake, we made our way for the last mile or two over and around more than 20 bog bridges that we would be repairing and replacing during the week.

When we finally got to the cabin, I was ticked.  I had lugged a bunch of gear and bad food this far into the woods because I figured that we’d be roughing it, and there stands a two-story log cabin with a propane fridge and stove, and even running water.  This place was a six and a half mile walk into the woods and it is far nicer than the one room hovel I currently reside in.  We let ourselves in and relaxed for a few minutes before our crew leader Bob joined us.  He left about two hours after we did, and arrived at the cabin less than twenty minutes after we got there.  Bob was going to be tough to keep up with.

Opalescent River

We had to put in four ten-hour days and we had a lot of trail to cover.  The walk in over the missing planks and the debris pile and the bridges that had been moved was just a sample of what we’d be doing all week.  Once we got the gear straightened out, we went off and cut some blowdown in the immediate vicinity, but there wasn’t too much.  We only had to hike a few miles south of the cabin to clear out some trail and then two lean-tos that trees had fallen on.  Oh, and we also had to upright and reset two outhouses that had tipped over.  It was wonderful and fulfilling work.

Even though I was exhausted, I slept terribly that night.  Dawn came early and so out of bed and into a bowl of oatmeal I went.

We backtracked from the previous day’s hike in, and headed north back to Avalanche Lake.  All the moved and missing bog bridges we had passed over the day before had to be found and put back into place.  A bog bridge is a really simple thing.  It’s basically used in areas where the ground is wet and the bridge helps protect the trail from erosion as well as keeping hikers relatively dry.  It’s constructed of four pieces of wood, all found onsite, and some heavy duty metal spikes.  You pretty much just have to find two big trees (you need a log anywhere from 20 to 40 feet long and with a diameter of at least 18 inches) and split the bigger of the two right down the middle.  Then you take the smaller tree and cut two 6 foot logs from it.  These are the footers, and then the long, split tree is put onto the footers so that flat part of the log is facing up.  The twelve inch metal spikes hold the whole thing together, and viola, you got a bridge.  One that can weigh several hundred pounds.  We were lucky because even though this area of the trail had essentially turned into a raging torrent during the storm, most of the bridges were intact and just had to be located and moved.

Bob and I left the others at the south end of the stretch and we headed towards the north end.  Then we would meet somewhere in the middle and have lunch.  It took both teams a few hours, but eventually we ran into each other and the work on that one little section of trail was done.  No bridges had to be built from scratch, but all of our backs and arms were hurting from moving so many of those damn bridges.  There were no outhouses in this area, so we had that going for us, which was nice.

Mt. Colden from Lake Colden

After lunch, our first project consisted of rebuilding a series of bridges that provided access to the south end of the lake and the camping area.  These bridges were the same construction as the bog bridges, but they were huge.  Each bridge probably weighed at least 500 pounds, and we had 9 of them to put back into place.  We cut some smaller trees to use as pry-bars and got to work.  It was rough going but with five people, no one had to kill themselves to get it done.  The views from Lake Colden are ridiculously nice, and I took the opportunity to snap some pictures.  After dinner I hopped into Cold Brook which flows right past the cabin and into Lake Colden.  It was very cold water and my “bath” lasted about 40 seconds.

Debris pile midway up Avalanche Lake

The next day dawned even earlier, although I definitely slept better that second night.  We walked north over all of the reset bog bridges and started to work on clearing the enormous debris pile at the outlet of Avalanche Lake.  About mid-way down the lake on the eastern side of the cliffs is a famous area known as The Trap Dike.  It is a huge split in the rock face that provides backcountry skiing and ice climbing in the winter and rock climbing in the summer.  The whole Trap dike had been washed out, and those that had seen it before said it was totally changed.  All I could notice is the immense pile of debris at the bottom of it.  The rubble stretched halfway across the lake.

Bob had talked to the project coordinator and decided that three people could actually head out that day.  We had completed our assignments and needed to move onto other terrain.  The other three people in the crew were going to finish clearing the debris at the end of the lake, fix the Hitch-Up-Matilda’s and then grab their gear and head home.  By some stroke of luck, we actually found most of the missing planks stacked at the end of the lake, so no one would have to negotiate that stretch without the boardwalk, and it made our trip out easier too.


Bob and I headed south back to the cabin and dropped some gear and picked some other stuff out.  We needed to go check a little-used trail that follows the Opalescent River down to Newcomb.  We bush wacked through The Flowed Lands and found that the trail was a wreck.  There was so much blowdown that in some spots, the chainsaw didn’t stop running for close to an hour.  We traded tanks of gas (fill the chainsaw with gas, then one person carries it and cuts until the gas is gone.  Refill and switch people and duties.  That way, one person doesn’t get stuck carrying the stupid chainsaw all day) and hit one cluster of trees that simply made the trail disappear.  After cutting my way in and down to the main trunks of the tress, I saw that it was a cluster that had all come down together.  The roots were upturned, but still attached to the trees, creating a situation where the trees were “loaded.”  This means that the trees will spring back into the upright position once enough weight is removed from their tops.  This is one of the most dangerous things you can cut with a chainsaw, but it had to get done.  Very carefully I cut the trees and the six and a half foot tall stumps sprung back into the upright position.  We should have trimmed them down closer to the ground, but decided to leave it as a sort of monument to future hikers that we dubbed “Treehenge.”

Bob made one of the finest meals I have ever eaten that night, even though the two of us basically had to sleep in a self-created methane gas chamber.  It’s amazing to me how much better food tastes when you’ve earned it.  (The best meal I’ve ever had was instant mac and cheese with tuna in it on the summit of Algonquin Mountain.  Disgusting, I know, but oh so delicious that day.)  On the fourth morning, Bob and I set out from the cabin with all of our gear, plus some that the others had had to leave behind and started walking north towards Marcy Dam.  There was a little bit of work to be done there, and then we were free to head home.

Hanging Spears Falls

We fixed the high water crossing over Phelps Brook.  Yes, the high water bridge with close to five feet of clearance had been moved a few feet even though it weighed about 1000 pounds.  We got some help from a summer intern and reset the bridge.  Then Bob and I headed out for the three and a half mile hike back to our cars.  Bob is a ridiculously fast hiker, and I gave up trying to keep up.  My pace was definitely off due to the hard work and thirty or so miles of trail that we had covered in the last few days.  Plus, the reduced weight in my pack from all the food I had eaten was offset by the extra gear I was carrying.  But he would stop and wait to make sure I hadn’t died and then we’d move on.

It was great to get a cup of chocolate after hiking in the rain all day, and when we were done with our debriefing at the central office, I headed home, looking forward to a very long and hot shower.  When I walked in the door, I knew I smelled bad, but my roommate looked at me and said: “You smell like woodchips and gasoline.”  It was one of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten.

* I changed Bob’s name just because I didn’t get to ask if they wanted their actual name used.

Lyon Mountain

First stream crossing

Earlier this year, I hiked Lyon Mountain for the second time.  It was a warm-up for the next week when I hiked Cascade and Porter.  Lyon Mountain is not one of the High Peaks, but it’s close at 3830 feet in elevation.  The nice thing about Lyon is that it sits all by itself on the Northeast edge of the Adirondack Park.  From the summit on a clear day you can see Vermont, the High Peaks and the skyline of Montreal.

The mountain also has a long history and even some intrigue about it.  For a long time, Lyon Mountain was one of the biggest iron ore operations around.  It has hosted a ski area, fire tower, caretaker’s cabin, and possibly even some nuclear missile silos.

The trail up Lyon Mountain was recently redone and now includes more switchbacks and a few new bridges.  The trailhead (N 44.72386, W073.84167) is at the end of a dirt road off of the Chazy Lake Road at the site of the former Lowenburg Ski Area (Lowenburg… Huh, wonder if they were Jewish?).  It actually showed up as Lowenburg Road on my GPS.  From Route 3 in the town of Saranac, turn onto the Chazy Lake Road.  Continue straight through the first Stop sign.  Be sure to wave to everyone you see, and then bear left at 0.5 miles.  Turn right at 2.3 miles at the Four-Way Stop.  Get your first view of the summit and fire tower at 3.5 miles.  Turn left onto the dirt road at 7.9 miles.  There is a brown wooden sign hanger at the road, but no sign.  Coming up the road, park on the right and the trailhead is in the far left corner of the clearing.

Red trillium on the Lyon Mtn. trail

For the first ten minutes or so, the trail is nice and wide.  (If you’re a backcountry skier, then follow the trail straight here to the top of the old ski trails and have a great time on your way down!).  The trail is well marked with red plastic discs.  Bear left onto the single track and make the first stream crossing on one of the new bridges.  The forest makes a nice change here to an understory of witchhobble and trillium with a maple canopy.

Make the second stream crossing after a nice rolling stroll and then about a half mile later, get a view of Chazy Lake to your left.  The summit push is pretty steep, but I only had to use my hands to scramble once or twice.  I did run into a large sheet of ice on the trail that I had to avoid, because I wasn’t prepared for ice, you know, because it was May 20th.  Reaching the fire tower, find the highest rock you can, and that’s the summit!

The summit is open with an almost 360 degree view.  Try to stay on the rocks and off the soil while hopping around.  And if you make it up more than three flights of the fire tower, you’re more brave than I am.

Fire Tower on Summit of Lyon Mtn. summit

Looking to the North from the summit, you can see the Altona wind mill area, and Montreal on a clear day.  To the southwest, you can see the High Peaks and to the East lies Vermont and the Green Mountains.  The trail up Lyon is not an easy one, but it’s not a killer either.

As I said before, this was the second time I climbed Lyon.  The first time was in 2008 in preparation for climbing a couple of High Peaks, the same reason I did it this time.  But soon I will have to climb it just for it’s own sake, because it’s a great hike.