Setting off on this adventure, we knew that we would lead a more active lifestyle. However, had you told me 4 months ago that I would have hiked to the summit of 2 mountains in 1 week and walked to or around several lakes, I would have laughed at you.
Our 2 weeks in the Adirondacks flew by, and we sure made the best of our time there. We drove the North, Central, and Southern Adirondack Scenic Byways. We covered so many miles by truck and foot. We saw some absolutely amazing scenery (and some pretty sad looking places, too). We survived several storms, including one that brought tornado warnings with it (we now have a tornado plan). And Little Bird is still refusing to walk more than a few steps on her own.
Shortly after we arrived in New York, I found a very comprehensive hiking guide available online. I hurriedly downloaded it, shared it with Will, and started planning. While the guide did in fact introduce us to several trails we would have never found and some amazing scenery, we have a few questions for the writer – primarily, “What exactly does easy mean to you?!” Will and I have hiked extensively, however, we have added Little Bird to the mix, and we try to bring Daisy along with us. Therefore, we lean toward easy to moderate hikes that are only about 3–4 miles long. One of the 3 hikes we did from this guide was actually easy (I give credit where it is due), however, the others were slightly misleading…totally worth the trip, but definitely misleading. The 1 listed at moderate was a fair assessment, though I am convinced the length of the trail played too much into the difficulty designations throughout this guide rather than the actual trail conditions.
Rocky Mountain – 1-mile RT, moderate: This 1-mile roundtrip moderate trail was the best mix of challenging hike and beautiful views. The trail was covered with many large rocks that required some navigating and was a little steep in a couple of areas. I am really glad we started with this hike as even at a moderate difficulty, it is easy to tell yourself that you can do anything for 0.5 miles one way. According to our fitness trackers, the hike was a little longer than 0.5 miles, however, it was worth every step. At the summit, you crest over a group of large, easy to walk across rocks to see Fourth Lake and Eagle Bay below. When we first arrived at the summit, we were the only ones there, which was a nice surprise. The trail was not busy, but we saw quite a few folks on the trail. We knew our time alone was limited, so we claimed a spot and soaked everything in. We try to get Little Bird out of the backpack not only to let her stomp her feet on the top of a mountain but also to let her stretch her legs for a minute. Shortly after we arrived, a group of about 6 people joined us at the top. They were followed quickly by a couple of other small groups, so we cut our visit at the top shorter than we would have preferred just to get away from the congestion. We got our pictures, we hydrated, and we headed back down.
Moss Lake – 2.5-mile loop, easy: Upon returning to the truck from Rocky Mountain, we drove a short way up the road to the Moss Lake Trailhead. Even though the 2 trails were less than 10 minutes apart, Little Bird naturally fell asleep in the truck, so Will and I ate lunch and relaxed for a few before waking her and feeding her then heading down the trail. As our hiking guide and the placards at the trailhead stated, this land was used as a summer camp for girls until the 1970s. Based on the descriptions, we thought we would see some abandoned buildings or remnants of the camp, however, we only saw beautiful scenery and the lake. We hiked the 2.5 miles around the lake as well as a 0.1 mile spur that takes you right down to the bank of the lake. After hiking the mountain, it was a welcomed easy and relaxing hike.
Echo Cliff-Panther Mountain – 1.5-mile RT, easy: This hike is where we really started losing faith in the hiking guide. Touted as “a popular destination with a well worn and occasionally steep trail,” we were very excited to get on the trail. We quickly realized that our definitions of “well worn” and “occasionally steep” were different than those of the hiking guide. The trail was covered with large rocks and boulders, which made for a need for very precise steps, and it ended up being very steep in places where we needed to crawl/climb—which was far easier for me than for Will who was walking with Little Bird on his back and Daisy tethered to his belt (Daisy is a great hiker, but she is much more motivated when Will is on the other end of the leash. Apparently I am too lenient and let her sniff too many smells, which really slows us down). Based on Will’s fitness tracker, we ascended the equivalent of 75 flights of stairs (or 750 vertical feet) in the 0.8 miles up the mountain. So I challenge the “occasionally steep” on many fronts. Even with the unexpected challenge this trail posed, the views from the top made it all worth it. The summit overlooked Piseco Lake and it was simply gorgeous. As with the summit at Rocky Mountain, there were more people there than we would have liked to see, but we tucked ourselves off to the side and took our time getting Little Bird out of the backpack and giving Daisy and ourselves a much needed rest and water. The way down was easier than going up, but my legs were so tired, that they were jello-y the entire way down. About ¾ of the way down, we were passing some hikers we had seen at the summit, so Will took a less traveled section of the trail over a few rocks. Just as he was almost through, his foot slipped and from behind I was certain they were going down hard. He caught himself (and Little Bird) at the last second and they both walked away unscathed. However, when I went over the same rock 30 seconds later, with full knowledge of the issues he had encountered and the added pressure of two people standing at the side of the trail, I slipped in the exact same spot and went down in a less-than-graceful heap. Watching me fall scared Little Bird, who started to cry (she had not peeped when she and Will went down), and I chastised myself for hurrying down the rocks because I wanted to check her out. After all the commotion, we were all fine and we carried on our way, with a few words of caution to the hikers who saw it all unfold and were waiting for a few more members of their party. We made it back to the truck with a few scrapes and bruises but they were all worth it.
Nine Corner Lake – 1.8-mile RT, easy: Because we had not had enough pain inflicted on us at Echo Cliff-Panther Mountain, we drove down the road a little ways to the trailhead for Nine Corner Lake. Listed in our guidebook as an easy “walk along an old road to this popular lake” we envisioned a smooth trail with few or no steep climbs. We were wrong again. The trail was very rocky and required precise maneuvering in places. The total elevation gain was only about 250 feet (equivalent to 25 flights of stairs, which put us over 100 for the day), so it was not incredibly steep the whole way, but there were certainly some places that were steeper than we wanted to hike by that time. There were a couple of waterfalls along the way, which were a nice distraction, and we passed a group of about 6 teenagers who were returning from swimming at the lake, so we knew it was going to be worth the hike, regardless of the quality of the trail. The lake did not disappoint, and we were all tempted to jump in for a swim, but we lingered for a few minutes then headed back down the trail. By this point in the day, it was starting to get a little later than we had planned and we still had an almost 2 hour drive back to the campground. The hike back to the truck was uneventful, and Little Bird even caught a short nap, which was something we all needed her to do.
Moreau Lake State Park – 4 mile Nature Trail: Will found this state park when he and Little Bird were driving around scoping places to fish. As with most state parks in New York, there was an $8 entrance fee, so on his scoping mission, he picked up a map and we then made plans to go back as a family for a hike. In addition to the entrance fee, we purchased a trail map for $2, which was worth the extra expense. We reviewed the map and set off on the Nature Trail, which is a 4-mile trail around the lake. The trail was really nice, and we had a great time. We had a few missed and wrong turns as the trail was not very well marked, but we were able to see some beautiful parts of the park on those side adventures. The main attraction at this state park is the beach along the lake. When we parked the truck, the parking lot was already getting full and we could hear a lot of people at the lake. Luckily, the trail was not busy at all. It was an enjoyable hike and definitely one we would recommend. There were picnic tables by the parking area, so we had a nice picnic after our hike. Will even got to fish for a few minutes. We commented several times during our hike and picnic how busy the beach seemed (as we could see it at various places along the trail and we could hear it from the truck), and we were not surprised to see when we left that they had closed the park for the day due to reaching capacity. We were also incredibly glad that all of those people were at the beach and not clogging up the trail!
After feeling like we have conquered the Adirondacks, we are upping our research game, because we are hungry for more trails and more mountain summits. Next time, though, we will be more prepared for the adventure ahead.