BUCK MOUNTAIN, MARCH 7, 2014
Buck Mountain lies on the southeast shore of Lake George, and it is a perfect introduction to the Adirondacks. Pick a bright day in May and start your Adirondack hiking with a great climb. ~ Barbara McMartin, 50 Hikes in the Adirondacks
The Buck Mountain hike — and chapter — is #1 in McMartin’s guide, one of a growing collection Kate and I have started amassing. It was also, appropriately enough, our first Adirondack hike as a couple (cue the chorus of Awwws), a nice easy out-and-back (as the American idiom has it) hike of almost seven miles in total. We did make it a little tougher by picking an overcast day in early March, but yes: it was still a great climb.
We hike every Saturday now, and it’s a definite highlight of our week, even if the long drives involved mean we’ve recently been taking the car to our Saturday breakfast diner rather than doing the six mile round-trip on foot. No matter — we walk off the pancakes and omelettes on trails rather than roads, far safer and more scenic.
So far it’s been the getting there part that’s trickiest. We live just outside the southeastern corner of the absolutely enormous Adirondack Park. Pick up any book on the Adirondacks (believe me, there are a lot) and all of them will mention early on that the park is bigger than Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone combined. Some will add the Smokies and/or Glacier to the list.
It’s big. We are starting local — this one is an hour or so north — and with the lengthening days we can venture further into the
We were briefly but not catastrophically lost around Lake George…
..before lucking onto the Pilot Knob road (place names are just one of the pleasures in this region) and the trailhead, partway up the eastern shore of the 32 mile-long lake:
We weren’t sure if snowshoes would be a help or hindrance, so I started off carrying both pairs in my pack. The snow on the trail was compacted but here and there the gigantic oblong prints of a snowshoeing misfit had deviated from the well-trod path to dot the deep virgin snow off-trail..
We soon crossed Butternut Brook via a crude bridge…
..and the real climb began:
With the slope steepening and the snow deepening, we put on our MSRs and enjoyed a nice snowshoe to the summit:
Just two other guys up there, and they didn’t hang long. It was chilly, with an inhospitable breeze, but we stayed half an hour, had a snack, rationed out our pitiful supply of water (somehow I never think I’ll get thirsty walking in snow, but it happens), and enjoyed the dramatic vistas:
What I know thanks to McMartin:
- the tops of many Adirondack peaks are bare due to fires, which past logging practices only encouraged
- in good weather, views from here encompass many of the High Peaks plus the Green Mountains of neighbouring Vermont
- many campsites around the lake are accessible only by boat
- most of the Adirondacks are rattlesnake-free — but not the hills around the lake
- the lake is a fault valley with its ends blocked by glacial debris
- the lake’s original European name was Lac du St. Sacrement; after its discovery by one Father Jogues in 1609, it was never free of conflict between Native American, French, English and/or American combatants till the end of the War of 1812.
It’s when going downhill that I truly appreciate snowshoes. You can bound, cut corners, swing over to intriguing subjects, and call out “Look at me!” to your gal as you bound, cut and swing.
Ideally, you will not end up on your arse, or a stretcher (so inconvenient) while doing so.
It was a pretty fast descent:
McMartin mentions this seep, a boggy obstacle outside Winter, a treacherous impediment for the un-cramponed when frozen and slick:
Indeed, going up, while Kate was taking a long and sensible detour around it, I had attempted to walk it sans snowshoes. Yes, if you must know, I ended up going “A over T” (arse over tit, a popular Australian idiom) and my camera took another thump. Kate had to pull me to safety with her trekking pole.
The rest of the way down was uneventful and pleasant in darkening woods…
..and there remained only one task to complete, not far from the trailhead, before beginning the journey home.
A certain celebrity hiker had left his mark on a tree near the brook. It was my duty as a nature-lover and sworn enemy of the Scientological to pay tribute to the man and his tree in the only appropriate fashion:
I’ll leave that part to your imagination.
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote