Hiking to Cat and Thomas Mountains • May 10, 2017
Yet another chapter in our adventure with the military has come to a close: Curtis has finished his training in New York! Unlike his last graduation where we spent our last week packing, cleaning, and moving, we have a bit of down time before the next step. Not only that, but the weather has also been absolutely gorgeous, so we’ve been out hiking as much as we possibly can!
We started one of our first days of freedom off right with a hike in the Lake George area. Curtis recently learned of another NY hiking challenge — the Lake George 12ster, which includes 12 peaks around the lake, including 2 we have already completed: Black Mountain and Sleeping Beauty. While knowing we likely won’t have time to hike them all in our time left here, just hearing about the challenge fueled Curtis’ desire to hike more on the list. I certainly wasn’t opposed to this; the views from around the lake are some of the best we’ve seen in our short time here. The Lake George area is also a shorter drive for us, only 1-2 hours at most. The close proximity to the Capitol Region makes it rather touristy, but it’s easy to find hikes away from the town and find peace and quiet in the forest. (That being said, we have done most of our hiking here on weekdays, and I can’t speak for the summer season!)
On this Wednesday afternoon, we set off to hike Cat and Thomas Mountains on the West side of the lake, near Bolton Landing, NY. Both Cat and Thomas are on the challenge, and easily doable in a 7 mile loop hike. Well, maybe not necessarily “easy” — there’s a bit of a climb to reach both peaks, and a lot of wandering up and down through the forest between the peaks.
On the day we picked to hike, the weather was cooler and the sky overcast, which meant both comfortable hiking weather and epic views at the peaks. We started out on the wide, well-maintained path from the trailhead, and followed it until we came to the intersection with the trail to Thomas Mountain, about 3/4 of a mile into the hike. We took a right to summit Thomas first, and the trail went from a gradual incline to a much steeper one — however, the trail remained well maintained and easy to trek up for the remaining 1/2 mile. At the peak is a nice South-facing view towards Lake George, which we were expecting, but what took us by surprise was the cozy cabin. It was unlocked, so we wandered inside to check it out, and found a comfy couch and chair with a huge window facing the view. If we had known about this before, it would’ve been fun to plan ahead and see if we could stay in here, but for today we just took a few moments to rest and enjoy the couch with the view.
After this, the trail becomes a bit more challenging — to continue on the loop, it goes steeply down the other side of Thomas and no longer resembles a well-maintained road. It was quite muddy and there were several steep rock faces to scramble down. We soon climbed back up in elevation, not nearly as high as before, but it gave a nice peek at the cabin from afar. After that, the trail went generally downhill for just over a mile, until it reached the intersection with the trail up to Cat Mountain. About a half mile before the peak, there’s another spur trail that takes you to a ledge with a view of the West, and it’s definitely worth it. We were able to see Gore Mountain, still showing some snow-covered ski trails.
The last half mile to Cat Mountain is steep, but the end was breathtaking. Here, you have a wider and more expansive view of Lake George, the peaks surrounding, and some of the Southern Adirondack mountains. We stopped for a few minutes to eat all our cookies and left when the gnats started getting bad. While Cat Mountain is a bit shorter than Thomas and farther away from the trailhead, it’s supposedly busier than Thomas Mountain. While the view is certainly better here, I think that if you’re headed out to this area, it’s definitely worth hiking the whole loop trail — it’s basically the same mileage as if you were to only hike Cat Mountain. I do recommend doing it the way we did though, if you want to save the best view for last!
The remainder of the trail was mostly downhill, crossing over some streams before meeting back up with the road on which we began. We passed by a small lake before arriving back at the intersection with Thomas Mountain trail, and finished the walk back to our car. It took us less than 3 hours (not including breaks) to hike the whole thing.
And that wraps up our first hike of the week…come back soon to read about the next! It’s so hard to believe that just over a week ago we were still in the seemingly endless cycle of rotating shift work. As challenging as it was, we realize now that the timing worked out perfectly with being tied down to a busy schedule throughout the winter, and now being free to hike more now that hiking season is upon us. Life is good!