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

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