Lake George

Lake George
Lake George - from Tongue Mtn Range - 11/11/2011

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Elephant Mountain and Sugarloaf Mountain - Lake George Wild Forest - 10/25/14

The Lake George Wild Forest offers unlimited opportunities for open forest bushwhacking.  It's really doesn't even fell like bushwhacking since the forest canopy is generally very open.

This morning I looked at my map to see what new peaks I could explore in the area.  I settled on Elephant Mountain in the vicinity of Hulett's Landing.

Leesa and Rev joined me for what turned out to be a really nice day.  We drove north on Route 22 to County Route 6 and turned west towards Hulett's Landing.  The mountain that will catch your eye as you drive west is Sugarloaf Mountain.  I stopped to take a few pictures of it.  There is a band of cliffs that surround the entire mountain.  A large tract of land west of the mountain used to private property, but it has recently been acquired by the state.

Sugarloaf Mountain form CR 6

Was there a way up Sugarloaf?

Next we took a left on Pike's Pond Road, and parked at the trailhead for Black Mountain.   My thought was to hike in a half mile or so on the trail to Black Mountain, then bushwhack NE to Elephant Mountain.   There is an old jeep road on the west side of Sugarloaf Mountain and we followed it as it would it's way around Sugarloaf.

Jeep Road on the west side of Sugarloaf

With many of the leaves now off the trees, we could see Sugarloaf Mountain on our right.  It really has a presence.  We decided to add it to our trip and veered eastward to look for a seam in the band of cliffs that guard the summit.  We found one at the NW corner of the mountain.   With a little care, we were able to scramble to the top. 

The view from the NW corner of the summit proved to the best, but as we circled the summit cone, we found other good views as well.  We also got an up close look at a Barred Owl!  

A fire ring on the NW corner of the Sugarloaf Mountain summit 

The view of Lake George from Sugarloaf Mountain

The Barred Owl, looking straight at me!

... and looking at Leesa

Lake George always looks good from and angle

My favorite Lake George picture of the day 

The only drawback we were having on this day is that we each picked up a half dozen ticks on our hiking pants during the day.  The ticks seem to be most active in the spring, but they are also active in the fall, and they found us today.

From Sugarloaf, we retraced our steps down, then continued on towards Elephant Mountain.  We crossed several drainages and discovered 3 nice waterfalls.  

The summit of Elephant Mountain is very nice and is carpeted with pine needles from Ponderosa Pine, or something similar.  Once again, the NW corner of the summit offered the best view of the lake.

Lake George from Elephant Lake

We ate our lunch on the summit of Elephant.  The weather was still sunny, but the sun was beginning to alternate with some clouds.  The clouds were on their way and would soon take over.

From Elephant, I wanted to continue west to a small bump between Elephant and the lake.  I wanted to see if the bump offered additional views.  When we arrived, Leesa named the bump the "Elephant's Peanut".  There were some filtered views, but by dropping a little lower to the west, we found views of both the Mother Bunch Islands and the islands of the Narrows.  

The Elephant's "Peanut"

The clouds had arrived by this point, but visibility was still OK.

Looking towards the Narrows as the clouds come in 

The Mother Bunch Islands down below

Floating Battery Island and 3 Sirens Island in the foreground.  The Narrows in the distance.
From the peanut, we began our return trip by looping southward towards the ridge for Black Mountain.  At an elevation of 2000' we left the ridge to contour around the slope to reach the Black Mountain trail.  Once back at the trail, we had an easy walk of about a mile and a half back to the car. Shortly after we reached the car it began to rain, but we had accomplished our mission!

Hike Stats:
Hike Distance:   6.6 miles
Hike Time:  4.5 hours
Total Vertical Gain:  ~ 1350'

Our route (click image to enlarge)

This older Nat Geo Map shows the land west of Sugarloaf to be private land.  It is now State land! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Buck Mountain and Little Buck - Lake George Wild Forest - 10/19/14

I was caught by surprise this morning when the weather was better than I had expected.  I decided, rather than catch up on some house projects, I would get out for a hike.  I made this decision at 9 AM this morning, so without a lot of time to travel, I headed for the Lake George Wild Forest.  I drove to the Buck Mountain trailhead on Pilot Knob Road to do a bushwhack hike to Buck Mountain and Little Buck Mountain.

I put an orange vest on my dog Rev and I wore my orange baseball hat.  The parking lot had a dozen or so vehicles parked there and most were pickup trucks.  I was guessing that many belonged to hunters.  With Rev and I bushwhacking off trail, I wanted to make sure we were easily seen in orange (especially since Rev's coat is mostly white).

We followed the Buck Mountain trail for about a half mile before leaving the trail to the left.  I wanted to head northeasterly and angle my way up to the Buck Mountain summit.

At about the 1.25 mile mark, I ran into a ridgeline and turned east to follow it up the slope.  It was open and had lots of exposed rock and offered great views of Lake George to the West and SW.        


Climbing a ridge easterly

Great views of Lake George

Eventually I had to resume my northeasterly course to avoid coming to the marked trail.  As I approached the summit I worked my way up the steep slope on the west face.  When I crested the summit, I was greeted with a stiff cold breeze.  No one was there.  I stopped to take few pictures and then headed north towards Little Buck. 

The Tongue Mountain range viewed from Buck Mountain

It looked like perhaps it was raining at the north end of the lake.

Traveling northward was easy.  I was careful on some wet moss and rock upon leaving Buck, but soon was greeted by open hardwoods.  It took me about an hour to make my way over to Little Buck. 

Open hardwoods descending the north face of Buck
I went to the nice west ledge before going east to the true summit.  While on the ledge we stopped for lunch.  The skies continued to alternate between sun and clouds, and it was breezy, but it was a nice day. 

The nice open ledge on the west face of Little Buck

Dome Island with Crane Mountain in the distance.

Some clouds on Crane Mountain

The Sagamore Resort down below

a closer look
On the return to Buck, I followed a different course to see some new territory.  I stayed a little further to the west on the return.  As I got closer to Buck I closed in on my earlier route.  This time on the summit there were 4 people there.  I passed over the summit and dropped down the steep west face, following some yellow blazes on the rock.   This was an obvious path and I followed it for a ways, but it heading W-NW and I wanted to go SW.  

I worked my way SW, staying west of my earlier route.  Once I came to the open ridge once again, I followed the same line down the ridge.  

The Tongue Mountain Range from Buck Mountain

Point Comfort from the west slope of Buck Mountain

Bottom of the rock pile

At several points during the trip I crossed blue discs making a path that was part of the Chingachgook Trail System.  This obviously went down to the Girl Scout camp, but the discs continued on the State Land and probably went to Buck Mountain.

One set of blue discs lead to the rock outcrop (and fire ring)  in the picture below.  This was on State land.

One set of blue discs lead here
I dropped down to the west from this location and turned south and soon found another location with a fire ring.

Another nice shot of the Sagamore
The last fire ring was almost within sight of the trail.  As I left this fire ring, within seconds I saw a couple below me walking on the trail.  I let them pass, then I emerged on the trail and had an easy 10 minute walk back to the car.   

For a last minute hike, this turned out to be a nice one.  It never did rain.  Back at the parking lot, it was overflowing with cars.  They were parking out on Pilot Knob Road.  I'm sure the trail was a busy place.  For me, other than the 4 people I saw on top of Buck Mountain, and the two persons I saw from a distance, I only saw one hunter.  I did see 5 deer and a group of wild turkeys.  Rev saw lots of chipmunks, but they just frustrated her when she tried to catch them.  

A last fire ring

Hike Stats:
Hike Distance:  9.2 miles
Hike Time:  5.75 hours, including stops
Total Vertical Gain:  ~ 3600' 

The route (click image to enlarge)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Wallface Mountain (3700') from Upper Works - 10/13/14

I've heard some unpleasant stories from hikers who have climbed Wallface Mountain.  Like any of these bushwhack hikes, it's often hit or miss on what kind of terrain you run into.  Recently though, I heard about a route that wasn't so painful.  I headed for Wallface today, with my dog Rev, to confirm that story.

This was my 2nd day in a row starting from the Upper Works trailhead.  Yesterday I hiked to Duck Hole with my wife, Leesa, and Rev.  Today Leesa was working, so it was a good time to try and grab another bushwhack peak on the ADK 100 highest list. 

Rev and I got started at 9:05.  It was 36 degrees and overcast.  No rain was forecast, but I was prepared just in case.  You never know when the weather might change in the mountains.

Nice bridge over Indian Pass Brook

A first look at Wallface Mountain

We made quick work of the Indian Pass trail and we were at the start of the herd path in an hour and 20 minutes.  Once you get into the base of Indian Pass, the trail crosses from the left side of the brook to the right.  To climb Wallface, you don't cross the brook.  You stay on the left side of the brook. You'll see a cairn that marks the start of the herd path.   Very quickly there is a 2nd cairn that marks a turn to the left for a campsite.  The campsite is probably illegal since it is less than 150' from the brook and there is not a a "camp here" disc.  Continue to hug the left side of the brook and you will see a faint herd path and nicely placed miniature cairns.

The cairns mark a climbers path that leads to the base of the Wallface cliff.  This is a location where many climbers go to rock climb.  It's not intuitive that this would also be a good direction to head to climb the mountain, but once you reach the base of the cliff, you can work your way up the left side along the cliff base and walk in ferns for the most part instead of thick spruce.

The cairns end here at the base of the cliff

Ferns at the base of the cliff make easier climbing than through the spruce.  

Wallface cliff

Climbing here isn't bad

Of course all good things must end.  As you get near the top of the left edge of the cliff, there is some thick brush right up to the edge of the cliff.  If you go slightly away from the cliff base at that point, it opens up a little bit and the walking is easy.

At the end of the cliff band, I immediately turned right and began climbing the final incline to the summit plateau.  The going wasn't bad.  I scouted the trees ahead of me and was able to climb with little difficulty.

Once on the plateau, the trees were thicker and it was a little harder to maneuver.  I clawed through a couple spots and soon found view to the N-NW.  I believe I was looking at Wallface Ponds in the distance.

A first (and only) view that I found.

A zoom view...

I continued along the plateau and found the apparent high ground.  There was a large bolder at this location that may mark be the high point.  I didn't see any sign, disc, cairn or any man-made indicator.  

The summit...

From the other side...
Supposedly there is a faint herd path that leads to a viewpoint on the top of the cliff that offers views east and NE, but I didn't see it.  I was very windy on top, but Rev and I explored around a bit.

I had enjoyed the route I had taken on the climb so I backtracked along the same line to head down the mountain.  It's worth the climb just to go as far as the base of the cliff, or partway up the left side. The summit itself isn't as nice, in my opinion.   

Going back down.  Occasionally I had a glimpse of the sun.

Rev at the top of the climbers herd path

A last look up the cliff

Still some color on the trees, but it is falling fast.

On the way out, I spent some time exploring the bottom of Indian Pass.  There are some huge glacial erratics, some caves, and some underground streams.  At one point, right along the herd path, you come across a cave below some boulders and you can hear water rushing, but the ground looks dry. You would need a ladder or a rope to get down in there.  The whole area is fascinating. 

The bottom of Indian Pass Brook 

After that, I was back on the Indian Pass Trail and back at the car at 2:50 PM.  On the way out, I noticed there is a relatively new interpretive sign in front of the McNaughton Cottage that details the buildings that used to exist at Upper Works.  It's a nicely done sign and worth a read. 

The new sign at McNaughton Cottage
Hike Stats:
Hike Distance:  9.5 miles
Hike Time:  5.75 hours
Total Vertical Gain:  ~ 2150' 

The route (Click image to enlarge)

The Nat Geo map with the route