September 26, 2015

Kane Mountain Fire Tower

I was still a little disappointed about not climbing any mountains at Labor Day weekend, so decided to try to squeeze something in this fall.  We can drive to the Adirondacks foothills in about two hours, so that is manageable for a day trip with the boy.  However, Frankie was not enthusiastic about the idea of a two hour drive (each way).  I'm not proud of it, but I found a solution: I let him play with "his phone" in the car, an old retired smart phone that no longer has service.  Erwin loaded it up with a bunch of games for Frankie to play with on long flights.  He has never before used it outside of an airport or airplane, and he was very excited for the additional opportunity.  I'd rather he look out the window as we drive and talk to me, but it worked: we arrived at the trailhead happy.  

We've had the string of most amazing fall weather: cool nights and sunny days, with mild temperatures and low humidity.  Today was no exception.  It was gorgeous!  We got a late start, and didn't arrive at the trailhead until around noon.  The lot was full, but luckily I could see some hikers returning to their vehicles, so we just waited a few minutes and a spot opened up.  I decided we'd take the shorter east trail up, and come down the longer north trail to make a loop if we had time.  We set off at a slow pace, with Frankie distracted by snacking and the many hikers we passed who were coming back down, lots of families with kids.  I suspect the trail may have been an old forest road, as it was fairly wide and never felt very steep.  Frankie's pace stepped up as we neared the top.  Summit fever!

He was so excited about the fire tower:  he took off running when he saw it, and could not get to the top fast enough.  I had to keep telling him to slow down on the stairs.  Wait for me!  He absolutely loved it: loved being so high, loved the view, loved talking to everyone who came through.  We spent over an hour up in the cab, enjoying the views and snacking some more.  We even spied a plume of smoke.  It was really hard to convince him to climb back down.  Finally we couldn't put it off any longer, given that I was still hoping to take the longer trail back to the parking lot, and of course we still had the long drive home.  We detoured to check out the observer's cabin, but it wasn't very appealing.  Lots of graffiti and garbage.  Then we followed a little herd path out onto a rocky clearing, thinking it was the north trail, but it just petered out.

We eventually picked up the correct path, blazed with yellow markers, on the northwest side of the tower.  And I'm so glad!  The north trail is just beautiful.  Most hikers must take the east trail both up and down, because the north trail appears to see very little traffic.  It is narrow and charming, winding past glacial erratics and through ferny glades.  I just loved it!  The grade is relatively level at first, following the ridge for a while before descending steeply.  Near the toe of the slope, the trail turns sharply to the right and regains some elevation before flattening out again.  There are some muddy sections of trail towards the end, but nothing too bad.  When the glint of car reflections comes into view, the trail tees onto a gravel road.  The parking lot is visible to the right and a small pond to the left.  We took the quick detour to check out the pond, which was lovely ringed with fall color.

It was a great little hike!  Mileage somewhere in the range of 1.8-2.0 miles round trip, perhaps 500-600 feet elevation change, and the north trail is just delightful.  Plus all the fun of a fire tower!  I'm going to have to take Frankie up more of these. 

Sign at the start of the red-blazed east trail.
Snacking already.

We had to stop and de-layer.  And snack some more.

The trees thin out near the summit.
Bedrock exposed in the trail near the top.

Frankie was SUPER excited about the tower!
View to the southwest: Canada Lake, Lily Lake (background), and West Lake.
View to the north: Pine Lake.
View to the east: Camelhump.
View to the southeast: Canada Lake, Sheeley Mountain, and evidence of how the fire towers used to work.  See the smoke?

Zoomed in view of the red maples along the shore of West Lake.
Snacking on a yellow cucumber from the garden.

We followed this little path out from the base of the tower, thinking it was the north trail, but it petered out. 
The north trail was delightful narrow. 

Checking out some glacial erratics
The north trail is blazed with yellow markers.

Sunlight on a steep eroded section

Looking back at the 90 degree turn in the north trail

Frankie wanted to go off trail to check out these puffballs.
Running through a narrow section of trail
Checking out a big fallen tree
Along the shores of an unnamed pond just north of the parking area
Back at the trailhead
Sign at the trailhead.  We took the east trail up and the north trail down
USGS topo map of the route

September 5, 2015

The Shoebox

We had the Keene rental for the entire long weekend, so of course I wanted to hike again.  I simply can't be in the Adirondacks and not feel that call.  However, in order to be accessible and appealing for our whole group, the trail would need to be fairly short and easy (no High Peaks!) and include a swimming hole of some kind.  I have not typically included swimming as a hike criterion, so decided to consult my High Peaks Trails book.  There are six places listed in the index under "swimming," including Copperas Pond, which we visited yesterday.  The Boquet River immediately caught my eye because I've read a number of trip reports from folks using that herd path to access the Grace Slide, and without fail, everyone spoke highly of the river and it's pools.  

However, the description in the trail guide is focused on the route up Grace, and contains scant details about the swimming.  I looked online and determined that we wanted to find a long, narrow pool with extremely deep water, somewhere in the range of 0.5-1.0 mile south of Route 73 along the North Fork of the Boquet River.  The group was excited to explore a new area, so we embarked.  It was easy to find parking, as there are several wide pull-offs on both sides of the stone bridge.  We started along the right bank of the river, as indicated in the trail guide, following behind a large group lugging pool noodles and other assorted floating things.  We breathed a huge sigh of relief when they stopped at the first large swimming hole just up the trail, taking their inflatables with them.

The trail on the right bank eventually petered out in a talus slope.  Susie wasn't comfortable on the loose stones with the baby carrier, so Erwin scouted first up slope, then across the river.  He hollered back that he'd found a trail on the other side, so we rock hopped over and followed that herd path for a while.  Jay and Susie were leading and lost the trail again, but I was able to re-locate it by following a faint path upslope a bit.  The girls were getting hungry and fussy by this time, which of course had the effect of making their parents impatient to arrive at the destination.  I took Frankie off trail so he could pee on a tree, and when we caught up with the group, they had settled in at a swimming hole.

I was immediately suspicious that this wasn't the Shoebox; the pool was roundish and the water relatively shallow.  Still, Erwin was eating his sub, Jason was swimming, and Susie was getting bottles ready.  I didn't have the heart to tell them we weren't there yet.  Besides, it was very nice spot.  So we all had our lunches, and Erwin, Jason, and I took turns swimming briefly.  The water was exceptionally cold, almost painful.  There was no acclimatization; it remained icy.  When the girls got fussy again, this time ready for a nap, Jay and Susie packed them up and started back.  Shortly after that, two guys who'd passed Frankie and I when we were catching up with the rest of the group came through, heading back to 73.  I asked them if they'd found anything nice further up the trail, and they told us the Shoebox was just 10 minutes further up.

Erwin and I were super conflicted, wanting to press on ahead, but not wanting to abandon Jason and Susie.  We dithered a few minutes more, then heard voices.  Jay and Susie returned!  They had spoken with the same two guys, and the motion of hiking for a few minutes had calmed the girls.  Scarlett was already asleep, so they decided to come back so we could all check out the Shoebox together.  As promised, it was only a short distance further upstream.  Jason and Susie went ahead, and Susie was swimming when our little family arrived.      

It was so worth the extra little hike!  Scarlett was still crashed out, so Jason parked the carrier in the shade, and we all  had a ton of fun swimming.  Frankie didn't go in the deep water, but he and I sat in some shallow water flowing over the bedrock, and watched the minnows who came to check us out.  He was excited to climb up on the boulders that loom over the swimming hole.  We explored upstream a bit, then returned to the Shoebox, where Frankie had another snack while I swam some more.  Jason and Susie packed up and headed out first again.  Frankie was reluctant to leave this special place, but I finally got us both changed into dry clothes for the hike out.  I'd seen the herd path when I ducked between two big boulders to change, and we followed it all the way back out, passing many campsites.   

We were all thrilled with our little adventure and will definitely return to the Shoebox again.  Next time we'll park on the left side of the river when facing upstream, since that herd path is better defined and requires fewer stream crossings.  What a great spot!!

Stream crossing.  Frankie loved this!
Following the herd path.

The spot where we stopped for lunch and the first swim.

Heading upstream.
The Shoebox

Susie and Veronica looking down at the Shoebox.
More snacks.

bluets (Houstonia caerulea)