Thanksgiving Weekend in Montreal • Hiking Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain, New York • November 24, 2016
Having the holidays off — or even being able to spend them together — is no longer a given for us. I guess this means we’re officially adults. Oh how we miss those easy college days, with nice long summer and winter breaks, and plenty of time to go home and visit family! It looks like Curtis won’t have any time off during Christmas week, so we just had to take advantage of the 4-day weekend we were given for Thanksgiving and get out of town. As much as we would have loved to spend the holiday with family, driving 10+ hours one-way to have 2 full days at most just sounded exhausting, and with Curtis having 12 hour workdays, we needed a more “relaxing” vacation.
We decided to spend our Thanksgiving weekend on an island just outside of the country. Are you picturing somewhere warm and tropical? Because that is not what it looked like. Out of all the places we could have gone, we decided to go North. Yes, North…where it is colder and snowier than our home. No one can accuse us of not trying to embrace winter in the Northeast! Our destination this weekend was the city of Montreal! Everyone thought it was pretty weird that we were going to Canada for our American Thanksgiving, but to us it made perfect sense. What Americans travel outside the country for Thanksgiving?? We reasoned that we were less likely to be surrounded by tourists. We didn’t think of this as getting away from the holiday that celebrates being thankful so much as getting away from the consumerism that surrounds the rest of the weekend. (As far as the Thanksgiving meal was concerned, instead of preparing a big meal just for the two of us, I made some of our favorite sides each night during the first part of the week, and we enjoyed the leftovers throughout the rest of the week!)
Unfortunately for us, the whole weekend up North was predicted to be cold, rainy, snowy, and dreary. While driving North on I-87 on Thursday, the high peaks in the Adirondacks were mostly obstructed by clouds and covered in snow. Thankfully, the interstate was clear of both snow and Thanksgiving traffic — just as we thought, no one was headed this way to celebrate the holidays!
Despite the snow falling, Curtis really wanted to try to get a hike in today. After all, we were driving past the Northern Adirondacks, further North than we’ve traveled before (in NY that is), and over 2 hours away from home. When else would we be able to get up here this winter? He exited the interstate just so we could “drive by and see what the trailhead looked like”. I should have just known when he said this that we’d end up hiking the peak no matter what. He wanted to so bad! The highway was clear, but when we made it to the trailhead for Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain, the lot was covered in snow. It was empty, with tire tracks & foot prints showing one other person had been here. Curtis parked, turned off the car, then began to carefully sweet talk me and convince me of why we should still hike this. Just to make it clear, I do really enjoy hiking and great adventures like these, I just like knowing that we’re still being safe and smart about this. I’m not one to enjoy throwing safety precautions out the window in favor of a true adventure. I like to hear Curtis tell me we’ll be fine and explain why several times. He has a lot of practice in giving me these little pep talks. 🙂
Long story short, we did end up going for a hike. Of course! It’s on the Fire Tower Challenge! We hiked to the peak of Poke-O-Moonshine and the fire tower from the Southern approach, which is longer and less steep than the trail from the East. It just seemed like a better idea with the snow. For the first bit of trail, we were following the footsteps of another hiker that had the same idea we did for a Thanksgiving hike, however his prints went off the trail not long after we started, and we had the great privilege of being the first to walk through a fresh blanket of snow. Well, Charlotte did, that is. Oh, how that dog LOVES snow! She’s always running through it, kicking it up behind her, and circling around to make sure we’re still following her. Snow makes her so happy! We really need to find if there’s a way we can continue to take her for hikes when the snow gets deeper. We don’t think it’s a good idea since her body is so low to the ground. Does anyone know if they make snowshoes for dogs?
Anyway, the trail gradually made its way up and through the forest. The coolest thing we saw on the way was a beaver dam and lodge on the side of the trail. (At least we think it was one, the trees certainly looked chewed on). This was really the perfect snowy conditions for a hike — MUCH easier than our prior experience on Pillsbury Mountain. Being the first to make a path through the snow is so much easier than following many other footprints on a wet, slippery path! It was also a couple degrees colder, around 30º while we were hiking, so it wasn’t wet and melting. Still, we tried to leave as much of the snowy trail untouched as we could, to make our descent easier.
When we reached the lean-to, our trail met up with the shorter and steeper trail for the last .3 miles. It was obvious that another group of hikers had already taken this trail, and that made this last bit of steep ascent more difficult. We also noticed that the snow seemed deeper, and there seemed to be more ice underneath the snow than there was at lower elevations. On top of all that, it was clear that we were in a cloud, and it felt a lot windier and colder! We pushed on and kept moving, as that was the best way to stay warm.
We reached the top after only an hour of hiking, and found ourselves in a foggy winter wonderland. Much of the view was obscured by clouds, but it was definitely cool in its own way. We got little peeks of Lake Champlain, Burlington, VT, and the Green Mountains to the East. Thankfully we were able to have a view without climbing the tower — this was actually the first fire tower hike we’ve done where we didn’t climb up the tower. We knew better after our experience with Pillsbury Mountain — the temperature seems to drop faster with every landing you reach! We also spent the least amount of time at the top than we ever have in all of our peak hikes. I noticed that my hair, wet with snow or maybe sweat, was literally frozen, as were the legs of my jeans. It was windy and cold, and we knew the weather wasn’t going to improve, so we snapped some pictures, Curtis put in a quick attempt to find a letterbox, and we hurriedly began our descent. Charlotte seemed to do fine with all of this and was certainly less pathetic than I was. 😉
We were unsure of how long it’d take us to hike back down the mountain, especially since many of the hikes we’ve done over the past month have been wet, slick, and taken almost as long as going up the mountain. However, we figured out that as long as we held hands and kept a quick pace, we were able to somewhat gracefully walk/slide down the mountain. It probably would have been very entertaining to watch, but since we were the only ones on this whole mountain, there was no one to enjoy the show. 😉 I may have fallen a couple times, but I found that over all, my confidence in my walking abilities was much stronger when I was holding Curtis’ hand. We let Charlotte run ahead, and she had just as much fun as we did. We even sang some Christmas carols as we walked. (Ok, fine, we sang one Christmas song over and over…Wham’s Last Christmas 🙂 ) In those moments, I felt the most thankful for life and being able to enjoy silly moments like these with the ones I love.
We made it back to the car, having hiked the 4.7 miles to the peak in just over 2 hours. Even with the snow, we’d say it was one of the easier hikes we’ve done in the Adirondacks. (Hiking to the peak from the shorter and steeper trail would be just over 2 miles round-trip.) Just as we neared the end, it started snowing more. Curtis claimed that if it had been like this when we arrived, he wouldn’t have encouraged us to do this hike. (Yeah, right. 😉 ) We piled back in the car for the last leg of our drive North.
The rest of the drive went smoothly enough, though the border crossing into Quebec was the busiest we’ve seen out of all our travels to Canada. Perhaps that had something to do with the election? Haha. Traffic getting into Montreal was backed up and it seemed like every road was under construction, but we eventually made it to our apartment for the weekend and got pizza for dinner.
And that was our Thanksgiving — it wasn’t anywhere near as delicious as a meal prepared by either of my grandmas, and was severely lacking in being around the people we love, but it was certainly a memorable one that we’ll remember fondly. Come back later to read about our time in Montreal — taking on the “big city”!