October 11, 2015

Blue Mountain Fire Tower

After Frankie had so much fun on our hike of Kane Mountain a few weeks ago, I started looking around to find another fire tower we could climb together.  Unfortunately, most of them are too far away to reasonably manage as a day trip, or they are beyond Frankie's current abilities, or in many cases, both.  Blue Mountain seemed like the next logical climb for us, but even that would be a stretch.  The hike is 4 miles roundtrip, with approximately 1,500 feet elevation gain.  Frankie has done that distance several times with little trouble, but has never taken on that much ascent.  He wasn't remotely tired after Kane, so I knew he could handle something more ambitious, but I was still a little unsure about Blue, especially factoring in the almost 3-hour drive just to get to the trailhead.  I had almost decided it would be better to wait until next year, but then we had amazing weather this weekend.  Plus, Frankie's school is closed Monday, so I knew he'd have an extra day to rest if we got home late.

I brought my pack downstairs last night, but was still undecided.  I was kind of feeling like it might be too much; Frankie had fallen off the monkey bars at school mid-week and limped for a few days.  However, he insisted it wasn't bothering him anymore and wanted to go.  So we made a game day decision to go for it!  Logistically, it would have been better to decide last night, so I could have gotten some of the preparation out of the way, peeling carrots and washing apples and packing layers.  Getting an earlier start would have been advantageous.  Still... the mountains were calling. 
The drive up was beautiful, with brilliant fall color washing over the hills and reflecting in the lakes.  Traffic was insane on 28, a line of cars as far as I could see both ahead and behind, no vacancy signs at every motel, stop-and-go crawling through Old Forge and Inlet.  I started to genuinely worry when we passed the trailhead for Bald Mountain, and law enforcement was there directing traffic around the overflowing parking lot.  I didn't really have a Plan B.  What would we do if we arrived and couldn't get a parking spot?  Luckily when we finally got to the Blue Mountain trailhead, we were able to snag one of the last spots.  Phew!

We signed the register and started up.  The trail is pretty rocky from the start.  I was a little worried Frankie would wear himself out with unnecessary scrambling before we got to the real climbing.  He always wants to go over every rock in or even near the path, invariably selecting the path of most resistance.  There are also a lot of low plank bridges, which Frankie loves, and I am grateful for because they elevate him above wet areas.  I've been consistent in modeling walking through muddy spots on trails rather than cutting around, explaining that the latter hurts the plants and makes the mud pits bigger through erosion.  He has embraced this policy wholeheartedly, jumping and splashing in every little pool.  I'm trying to teach some restraint, to keep him out of the deepest waters so his feet stay dry longer, but I also want to keep the nagging to a minimum.  Balance is tricky sometimes.  Hopefully he will come to appreciate the joy of dry feet eventually.  

Our pace was slow, as expected.  With some breaks, it took three hours to get to the summit.  But what better way to spend three hours?  It was a gorgeous day to be outside.  Frankie was once again exhilarated by the fire tower, bolting up the stairs and reveling in the endless views.  He really likes it when other people join us so he can see their reactions to the views (and to him).  He was one of the youngest on the mountain, and enjoyed quite a bit of attention and praise for his accomplishment.  It was super windy and most people didn't stay long, just snapped a few quick pictures and retreated from the cold.  However, I came prepared with lots of warm layers and we were able to hang out in the cab for half an hour or more.  What a place to be!

Eventually we had to head down.  Days are short this time of year, and even though I brought our headlamps, I really wanted to get back out before dark.  I hate to rush Frankie on a hike.  If he wants to climb a boulder to say hi to the moss or put leaves in water to see if they change colors or stop to hug trees (all of which he did on this descent) I normally think that's fantastic and happily let the diversion run its course.  Unfortunately I did have to interfere a bit more than I'd like today to encourage more rapid downward momentum.  This is where better preparation the night before would have paid off.  We did finally make it out to a virtually empty parking lot, with a bit of daylight to spare.  A quick change for Frankie into dry pants and socks, and we were ready for the long drive home.  To my amazement, Frankie was still awake when we went through Holland Patent, so we stopped at Stewart's for milkshakes.  He finally passed out on the Thruway, and I carried him up to bed when we got home.

I am so proud of this little guy!  I can't wait to see what mountains we will climb together next year.

Taking the path of most resistance
Frankie loves these bridges

The trail ahead

There is some nice trailwork here

Gaining elevation -- the trail gets slabby
Sticking his toe in the water... ALL the water!
Including this water

Eating an apple we picked last weekend

There it is!

View northeast toward the High Peaks

View west toward Blue Mountain Lake

Frankie was so happy to see this picture of Grandma Debbie -- it is a laminated memorial card, featuring a picture I took of her hiking on Tabletop

Heading back down

My little tree hugger

Back to the now-empty parking lot.  We beat the sunset!
We just took the main trail up and back, but it looks like a loop might be possible, by taking the jeep road back down to the Tirrell Pond Trail.  Has anyone tried that route?

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