Hiking to Hadley Mountain || August 28, 2016
The day after hiking to Black Mountain, we slept in and took it easy…and then decided we were ready for another hike. 🙂 Maybe we’re a little addicted. Maybe our hiking withdrawals were more serious than we thought. We just had to get out and do something since it was such a beautiful day!
We decided to go for Hadley Mountain, and make a little round trip out of it, giving us both another Fire Tower for the hiking challenge, AND another county. We took highway 9N North up to the trailhead, grabbing a drive-by letterbox in Corinth on our way up. Because we had slept in and had a late start, it was around noon when we reached the trailhead. It was off of a long dirt road in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, so we were hoping to have a quiet hike, but the parking lot was full and cars lined the road. So much for that — Maybe having a hike all to ourselves like we pretty much did with Spruce Mountain is a rare occurrence! Oh well, we packed up some snacks and water and set off on the trail, which we knew was somewhere between 1-2 miles to the top, so it had to be pretty easy.
As it turns out, levels of difficulty for hiking can be completely relative to the specific area where the trail is. This trail may be easier compared to other fire tower hikes, but it was more of a challenge than what we were expecting for this “nice Sunday afternoon hike”! This was when we started to realize that switchbacks are rare commodities on trails up here. My conclusion is that these trails were made before the switchback was invented. Instead of meandering your way up the mountain by going back and forth on a gradual incline, like what we’re used to, the trail literally goes straight up. It’s very daunting to look at when you’re standing at the bottom of a particularly long uphill stretch. There were a lot of big slick rock face sections along the way as well. I have NO IDEA how so many people there were doing this without any water — Curtis and I were sweating SO much and drinking enough to make up for that, as well as sharing some with Charlotte.
There were some highlights though: we were able to keep up a good pace despite the steepness, we weren’t being passed by other hikers, and we found raspberries and thimbleberries on the way up! I didn’t really indulge in them, but Curtis was absolutely thrilled and stopped continuously to pick some. I gladly welcomed each stop as a way to catch my breath, and Charlotte enjoyed getting a chance to sniff around.
The total length of the hike round trip was about 3.6 miles. The last stretch of the trail was along a ridge to the peak and the tower. The whole hike up was through the woods, so reaching the first viewpoint was a real treat. Mountains, mountains as far as the eye could see, and we had a great view of the Great Sacandaga Lake. (I was very thankful that the majority of the walk was in the woods though — not only does it keep us cooler, but we also are able to walk away without any sunburns!)
The peak of the mountain is a giant rock face, with plenty of room for all the hikers to spread out and enjoy the views in peace. The fire tower is also open to climb and get a 360 view of the Adirondacks. Whenever we come to these, I always tell myself I don’t have to climb it because the height and shakiness of the towers scare me, but I always end up doing it anyway because I can’t resist a good overlook. I just take it slow, one flight of stairs at a time, and take deep breaths the whole way up. It’s always worth it, and I never regret it. It’s just not easy being a hiker with a fear of heights. 😉
We enjoyed a little time at the top of the mountain, then went to check out the ranger’s cabin before heading back. Of course we couldn’t help but think how awesome it’d be to be that ranger, staying up there for a couple weeks or maybe a whole summer. You’d meet plenty of people hiking the mountain, but you could enjoy every evening on your own on a peaceful mountain. That’s definitely a job we’d love to do together. Just like being lighthouse keepers. 🙂
On the way down, we discussed the steepness of this mountain, and how to explain how steep it actually is in a way that helps non-hikers understand what we mean by “steep”. We’ll use the Grand Canyon as an example since many people have been there. The Grand Canyon drops one vertical mile on an 8 mile long trail into the canyon. Having hiked it down and up (read about that here!) we know that the grade is pretty level and the descent is gradual. Now, any trail that has more than 660 feet of elevation gain in 1 mile is steeper than the Grand Canyon. Hadley Mountain has an elevation gain of 1525 feet over the course of 1.8 miles. So yes, this mountain is steeper than the popular trails of the Grand Canyon. Nothing like some deep educational thoughts to pass time on your way down the steep mountain!
What was so crazy to me was that at this point, we hadn’t even gotten to 3000 feet above sea level, and yet these hikes we’ve done have been such a good workout AND have provided spectacular views. Where we were in Arizona, that wouldn’t even be considered a mountain, and yet in the Low Country of SC it would be a miracle. It would be the highest point for almost 200 miles. Mountains are always relative to where you are. Trail conditions are relative to the area where you’re hiking. Each hike comes with its own challenges and its own beauty. The most important thing is to not compare what you’re seeing and feeling with other areas, and instead to appreciate nature in the area you’re in, wherever that may be.
This hike took around 3 hours for us, with all our rest breaks, raspberry picking breaks, and time at the top. We drove home via route 4/North Shore Road, stopping to enjoy the lake for a few minutes. We learned that the Great Sacandaga Lake is a man-made lake that was simply called a reservoir for a number of years, then renamed “Great Sacandaga Lake” in order to promote tourism. It worked!
We also stopped to see a covered bridge (Copeland Bridge) on the way home. It was just a bridge and a couple of waterfalls along the road, and the letterboxes were missing, but it was a pretty awesome stop. This was also before we realized that there are actually a multitude of covered bridges in New England — more on that later! 😉