End of October 2016 • Hiking Pillsbury Mountain, First Snow, and Turning 24
Curtis’ first week of work happened to be the week of my 24th birthday. I wasn’t too bummed, I mean, how can I complain after the amazing, adventure-filled fall that we’ve had? I just decided to make the most of my day at home with Charlotte and not expect much. Of course, when you set your expectations low, you can never be disappointed — and this turned out to be one of my favorite birthdays ever!
Curtis was supposed to have his first 12 hour day, and it was supposed to rain all day long. Around 10am, I looked out the window and saw not rain, but SNOW! The first snow of the season! It was about 40º outside so it wasn’t supposed to stick, but Charlotte and I both went outside to play in the “first snow”. After a fun run around, I went back to work, Charlotte went back to her nap, and the snow continued to fall. Then it started to stick. It accumulated more and more. Before we knew it, everything was covered under a couple inches of white powdery snow! Once again, we went outside to run around some more. I grabbed my camera to document the first snow on my 24th.
And just when I thought the “birthday surprises” were over, guess who walked in the door 2 hours early?! Curtis!! Because no one was expecting the snow to accumulate the way it did, he had an early dismissal! We went back outside together and played in the snow a third time, just ridiculously happy. And to wrap it all up, he gave me Mean Girls on DVD. Best. Birthday. Ever. 😉
The snow melted pretty quickly around us, but we knew there was still snow on the mountains, so we planned to do our first “hike in snow” that weekend. We drove about 2 hours North to Speculator, NY to hike to the Pillsbury Mountain fire tower. Unfortunately, this hike proved to be way more challenging than we had anticipated. While the warmer temperature (around 40º) was great for being outside, it was making the snow melt and the whole trail was slick and flooded at parts.
There were still some bright orange leaves hanging on, which made this hike colorful and interesting. The trail was already covered in a blanket of leaves before the snow, so now what we were walking on was wet leaves on top of soft snow, on top of more wet leaves, and mud. The whole way up I was dreading the hike back down. Maybe that’s a sign that we should stop…but when you drive 2 hours to go for a hike, it’s so hard to give up so early! It was clear that at least one person had done this hike since the snow, so we had prints to follow and always knew where the trail was. The trail was also well marked with blazes on the trees — but when we’re walking on slick ground, we tend to always look at our feet, so it was nice to have extra help!
There was only one of us that felt completely confident on their feet today, and that was Charlotte. It amazes me at how well our little puppy does with adjusting to every environment we bring her to! On the hot and humid summer days, she loved to go lay out in the sun and soak it all up, and now on the cold and snowy days she loves frolicking through the snow, kicking it up behind her. It’s adorable. We know we won’t be able to take her on winter hikes in much deeper snow since she’s so short, and because she’d probably sink and freeze her tail off, but it’s fun to let her have this experience. She certainly enjoyed it — even more than I did at certain points. 😉
When we were about halfway up the trail, we came across a section unlike anything we’ve ever experienced hiking. The snow melt had literally turned the trail into a little river! At first we were doing our best to walk on the side or on rocks, but eventually our feet were just so wet that we gave up. There is nothing in our past hiking experiences that could have prepared us for this. The trail was flooded in the more level areas, and was covered in little waterfalls on the steeper or rock face sections. It was so weird!
We made it to the top and found the letterbox and took turns climbing the tower. This tower was pretty sketchy compared to the others — normally we feel totally safe climbing them and they are protected and covered with wire on the sides of the stairs the whole way up, but this one had bare sections with nothing to protect you if you lost your footing. Also, we were in a cloud and couldn’t see anything, and the temperature seemed to drop 5 degrees with each landing on the way up. Our fingers were numb for a while after that. Not a smart idea, and definitely not worth the view right now. Haha.
Just as we imagined, the way down was way more difficult than the hike up. I think we only fell a cumulative total of 4 times, but there were many moments where we came close and caught ourselves with the hiking poles. Usually I’m the only one who uses a hiking pole, but Curtis gave in and used one today. It proved to be doubly useful for clearing leaves and creating dams to try to improve the trail situation. Using crampons or snowshoes wouldn’t have helped us at all today, as it was just the wetness that was making the trail slick, and not ice or deep snow. As I struggled and slipped down the mountain, I tried to look at the bright side: at least we weren’t freezing cold, the predicted rain was holding off, and we were the only ones out on the trail today! More like we were the only ones dumb enough to go for a hike on a day like today…haha. We’ve heard that lots of trails up here will close in the spring for this very reason — they call it “mud season” and having lots of people on the trails during that time causes erosion.
At the peak of our 10th fire tower! Also wearing bright colors because it’s hunting season. 🙂
But hey — we made it to the peak and back with no injuries, so that was a success! Our 10th fire tower hike in the NY fire tower challenge! We made it back to the car and started the drive home. I should mention that to get to the Pillsbury Mountain trailhead, you have to drive about 10 miles on a dirt road, and the road is closed from December to March. Curtis read that when it’s open, it is pretty well maintained up until the last mile. There were big puddles in the road today, but no snow, and we were able to make it through fine.
On our way back, we stopped to see Auger Falls. It’s right along highway 30 and there’s just a short easy walk to get there. We were hoping that they would be big with lots of water from the snow melt, and we weren’t disappointed! We could hear the loud crashing of the falls before we could see them, and the noise was deafening when we were close to them. I made sure Charlotte stayed close to me and didn’t try to play in the water like she always enjoys doing at waterfalls.
The snow is gone now, but we are working on “winterizing” and preparing for the long winter ahead. First step: buying our first shovel and windshield scraper! We are determined to embrace the season and make the most of our time here no matter how much snow we get and how cold it is, though sometimes “embracing the season” will look like us hiding inside a warm cozy house and working on a 3000 piece puzzle, or something like that. 😉