Labor Day Weekend || Hiking & Backpacking to Belfrey & Hurricane Mountains || September 3, 2016
For our Labor Day weekend adventure, we set our sights pretty high — to the High Peak region of the Adirondacks! We were loving all the relatively nearby hikes we’d done, but were ready to branch out and see what this state has to offer further North. We didn’t really think of planning for this holiday weekend trip until it was too late to get good (cheap) reservations anywhere, but the weather was promising to be pleasant so we decided to camp. And when the camping options turned out to be few and far between, camping turned into backpacking. Oh okay, if you say so. 😉 It would be a great adventure AND would be free besides the gas it took to get there! Curtis did some research and found a couple hikes that would give us a good taste of hiking in higher elevations and would cross off a couple more hikes for the different hiking challenges. (If you’re interested in knowing more about these challenges, Curtis is going to make a page for this site with some info on the different ones he knows about, and it will also double as our “proof” for what we’ve completed. 😉 )
We began with driving up on Saturday with intentions of meeting Curtis’ friend and our hiking buddy for the weekend around 2. After picking one good hike to fill our time for each day, Curtis noted that if we left early enough, he and I could easily do another very short hike for the Fire Tower Challenge – Belfrey Mountain! It took us a bit to find it — cell reception up here is bad and somehow we’ve become too reliant on Google Maps. (Don’t worry, we’re working on obtaining bigger, more detailed maps of the area so we can forget about technology and go old school again, haha!) Part of the issue is there wasn’t a trailhead, we had to park on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Oh, and then the trail is only .4 miles to the top, and most of that is on a service road. So we’re not sure how this one qualified to be on the hiking challenge, but hey, we did it! We walked up, climbed the tower, enjoyed views of the high peaks we’d be hiking later and of Vermont, then made our way back. Easy peasy!
Next, we drove to a trailhead to meet our friend Lars. We drove separately so that we could do a through hike the next day, leaving one car here in this trailhead and taking the other to the other side. But that hike was for tomorrow — for this night, we were hiking a completely different trail and camping somewhere along it!
Once together, we drove to the trailhead on the West side of Hurricane Mountain. It was a little busier than we wanted, but we still hoped to have a quiet night camping. Curtis had done some research and knew there was a lean-to on another side trail that was near a lake, and thought it sounded like a great place to camp. We began our hike, which started as an easy flat trail following a stream. When the trail split, we first went left to find the lake and maybe the camping spot, hoping to ditch our packs before hiking to the actual peak. As it turned out, the hike to the lake was still pretty steep, and
we I became hesitant towards camping up here if it meant having to hike down and up between this trail and the peak multiple times. Once at the lake, Curtis set out to find the lean to, but found it already occupied with a club scout group. We were okay with that — it didn’t even have a view of the lake, and we knew that we’d have a longer hike back in the dark if we decided to camp here and go to the top that evening.
Instead, we chose a campsite closer to the fork in the trail, meaning we’d only have just over a mile to hike back to our car the next morning. This sounded like a better idea because it’d also allow us to get an earlier start on our next hike! We set up our little camp, and then pushed on to make it to the peak before dark. The trail to the top of Hurricane was like the others we’d done in the Adirondacks — steep with no switchbacks, and it had a lot more roots and rocks in the way. It was only about 1.7 miles to the top though, and we had a bright flashlight with us, so we weren’t too concerned about the way back.
Seeing the top of the mountain during the golden hour before sunset was seriously one of the most beautiful sights we’ve had while hiking. Because of how perfect the light was, AND the fact that we were completely alone at the top, we had to say that this was our favorite hike of the weekend, and honestly our favorite in New York so far. The peak is a large area of rock face that we all enjoyed wandering around, climbing, and taking in the views. The fire tower at the top is also open to the public so we climbed it and enjoyed more views of the high peaks, Vermont, and Lake Champlain.
Because we like to be as safe as possible when we hike, we rarely get to see sunsets at the top of mountains. We didn’t stay to see it set all the way, but we still loved this experience. Maybe we’ll do this more often with these shorter fire tower hikes. The hike back wasn’t too challenging, and we only needed the flashlight towards the end. We had some difficulty getting Curtis’ camp stove to start, but with the help of birch tree paper, we got it going and made delicious kielbasa and veggies for dinner.
Besides waking up periodically due to being uncomfortable, we all slept pretty well and enjoyed a quiet, uneventful, bear-free night out in the wilderness. Good thing too, since it was Charlotte’s first backpacking trip with us. She did so well and slept quietly with us in the tent. For the first time, we left the cover off the top since it was a clear night, and when she discovered she could see out the window, she couldn’t take her eyes off it. I’m not kidding — she woke up around 5 when we heard some hikers somewhere, and she sat perched on top of Curtis until 7, hardly moving, just staring out into the darkness. I have no idea what she thought she was watching or waiting for, but it was so adorable. And for almost every night of camping since then, we’ve left a window open for her to enjoy her “night time show”. 🙂
And that wraps up day 1 of our weekend — come back tomorrow to read about day 2!