Hiking in Split Rock Wild Forest • Visiting Ticonderoga, NY • May 18, 2017
The morning after our hike to St. Regis, we woke up early and decided to pack up our campsite quickly so we could get started with our day before the heat and gnats got too bad. It was supposed to be even hotter than the day before, so we wanted to take it easy and enjoy a nice short hike before heading home. We had considered hiking some high peaks or other Saranac Lake hikes, but chose something less strenuous and lower elevation to avoid “mud season”. Of course, it’s nearly impossible to avoid mud in the spring, but I’ve read that it’s best to stay away from popular trails to avoid creating even more erosion.
We drove a different route back through the high peaks, loving every view around every corner, then drove East past the interstate, and then North when we reached Westport, NY. When we were planning what to do, we had been investigating spots on Google Maps and found this little peak and forest right on Lake Champlain that looked interesting. It’s called Split Rock Wild Forest, and it is apparently the only/largest piece of undeveloped land along Lake Champlain. We hadn’t heard anything about it, but we were sure we could find some good views of the lake and maybe the Adirondacks. It’s always fun to hike in different areas to get different views!
We were the only ones at the trailhead when we first arrived, unless you count the gnats that we met. They were absolutely ruthless, but we still wanted to make the most of our morning. We set off on the trail headed for Split Rock Peak on the North loop trail. In all, we hiked about 6 1/2 miles gaining around 1000 feet. To see the trail profile, check out Curtis’ AllTrails report here. According to the trail register, this place receives some hikers, but definitely not as much as peaks on the different hiking challenges.
We found the trail to be muddy, obviously, and the gnats seemed worse around those parts. We weren’t sure how far we actually wanted to walk as the conditions were pretty miserable, so when we came to the spur for Ore Bed Overlook, we decided to check it out and see if it was a good enough note to end on. After following the path around a peak, we came out to a ledge giving us a great view of the Adirondacks. We had been expecting to see Lake Champlain, and were able to get a glimpse of it to the South, but that was it. It was also very hazy for some reason. Still, I loved how well we could see the farm lands between us and the high peaks. Sometimes New York reminds me of the Midwest when I see scenes like that…the Midwest with mountains in the background, that is!
We continued on the trail, hoping to find another view featuring Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains. After going up and near Split Rock Mountain, which is a forested peak, we started to go downhill until we came to the spur trail for Essex overlook. It was only about .2 miles to the overlook, but it was honestly a bit of a letdown. It was basically just a boulder with a small window between the trees. Curtis had done some research on the area and had read that there was a lighthouse down along the lake and was hoping to get a glimpse — we knew we wouldn’t be able to see it very well though, so we weren’t expecting a lot. We were just disappointed with the lack of lake views. If you’re looking for a hike with views of Lake Champlain, we recommend either Hurricane Mountain or Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain (both are fire tower peaks).
After making it back to the main trail, we continued on to finish the loop, as we were right in the middle of the hike with 3 miles down, 3 to go. The way back was honestly much easier and dryer than the one up, which we were thankful for. We also spotted some wildlife along the way! First, on the way down I noticed Curtis stop and slowly back away, and got nervous right away, until he motioned for me to come. “It’s a porcupine!” he said, “Come take a picture!” This one was pretty docile thankfully, just meandering its way across the trail and into the woods. I wasn’t able to get a good picture because it just blended in with the surroundings, but we were happy to have this encounter and walk away unscathed, especially for Charlotte’s sake. She either didn’t notice it, or didn’t care — she didn’t growl or anything! Maybe she’s learned her lesson after her earlier experiences? (hiking Mt. Frissell and Gore Mountain)
After that, as we were walking, Curtis recalled to himself that porcupines climb trees, and wondered how many we have passed by without even noticing? He looked up, and low and behold, spotted one right ahead of us actually climbing the tree! It was so interesting to watch! Once again, Charlotte was calm as ever, we watched the porcupine climb up, then went on our way. And that’s how we saw 3 porcupines in just 3 days! (We had also seen one on the road home after hiking Tremper in the Catskills.)
We made it back to our car, took a long drink, planned our route home, then got back on the road. Once back at the car, we noticed how much pollen was on our shoes — they were almost green with all that dust! That must be what the “haze” was! At least it wasn’t bad as it was in South Carolina. 🙂 On the way home we stopped to get a letterbox and learn a little about Champ, the “Loch Ness Monster of Lake Champlain”. Apparently sightings of this creature go as far back as Nessie herself. We had hoped for a statue (or maybe a sighting, whatever!) but all we found was a board with names and dates of the people who claim to have seen it.
Our final stop for the day was kind of a mistake. We were driving through Ticonderoga, and took a wrong turn because there was a roundabout with a statue in the center, and Curtis had to take a few turns around to admire the statue…haha. We drove through historic downtown Ticonderoga and realized we hadn’t seen any highway signs, so I checked Google maps to see how we might turn around. While still headed the wrong direction, we happened to drive past this lovely looking park, and decided to get out for a quick walk. There was a covered bridge and a small waterfall, what more could we want? Oh, maybe a letterbox — Curtis checked his phone and saw there was even a series right here! He wasn’t able to find all the boxes, but it still made our day. This is actually the La Chute River where Lake George lets into Lake Champlain. I don’t think it’s considered a “wrong turn” when you end up at a place like this. 🙂
After that, we finished the drive home, where we were met with some news that we didn’t see coming and has kind of dominated our lives since. More on that…..later. We are just very thankful we were able to take (maybe) one last trip to the Adirondacks before life gets crazy!