Monday, May 30, 2016

Fire Tower Challenge: Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain and Belfry Mountain

On Saturday I was insanely productive at my house.  I cleaned (vacuumed & all) mowed my lawn, bought more top soil for my garden, completed raised bed, bought plants, & planted plants.  I even weeded my patio and cleaned my porch.  By the time I finished, I was exhausted.  I wasn't sure what I'd do on Sunday, but knew that I didn't want day 2 of my weekend to also be lawn care. 

I began throwing around the idea of hiking a fire tower mountain on the east side of Lake George.  Somehow this escalated into hiking 2 and quickly into hiking 3.  I mapped out an elaborate route planning to visit Poke-O-Moonshine, Belfry, and Black Mountain. 

I didn't set an alarm, but woke up easily a bit after 6am. It only took me a few minutes to get up and out the door to start my adventure. The drive to Poke-O-Moonshine took longer than I initially thought. I had read a few trail reports; I was aware that there was a steep short route (2 miles rt) and a new route that was longer but 'not as steep.'  I didn't know that the new trail starts at a completely different trail-head.  I parked in the lot that had a lovely sign indicating the trail for Poke-O-Moonshine. This is the truck trail (the other trail starts near some campground that I never saw)  Since I was thinking this would be a short hike- I almost ditched my bag.  But it was hot and I knew I'd want some water so I took most everything else out, kept the water, inhaler, and dog biscuits and took off onto the trail.

It was hot and humid.  I haven't been super active for the past 2 weeks because of my allergies and boy could I feel it.  That with the new hot humid weather, I was feeling purple and super sweaty. Just about halfway up I ran into a fellow 46r that I traded stories with for a bit. I didn't mind the extended break.  There was a big pond crossing, that confused me for a minute, but I headed towards the left where I was able to cross on down logs easily and I pushed Marcy into the water so she could swim across ( i didn't really push her, Marcy nearly dragged me in to swim with her.)

From there the trail keeps going up - I was surprised at how steep the trail was especially since this was suppose to be the 'less steep' one.  I'm curious about the other! The old & new trails finally connect just past the lean to- at the old rangers cabin.  ( which was extra interesting for me to see the remains since I just started reading The World without Us

I was now on a mission to just get to the summit.  I continued to look for the fire tower and decided that it must be the shortest one ever.  I wasn't able to see it until I was nearly on top of it.  I was a bit surprised by how many people were there (6) since there were only 2 other cars in the lot (one being the 46r who was leaving) but many people came up from the campground.  I sat, downed an apple and bribed Marcy to take pictures with dog treats. 

I knew that the blackflies would still be active, but I had hoped for a windy summit to keep them at bay.  While it was a bit windy, not quite enough to discourage the bugs.  The view is great without the firetower, which is a nice change from the previous 2 firetowers I had climbed. Had there been no bugs, I may have hung out longer.  I tied Marcy off to the base of the fire tower and climbed up to have a look. While the platform was locked, you can still climb a few flights of stairs, this allowed for a nice view of the north side of the mountain, Lake Champlain into Vermont.  

hard to see but view of Marcy from the top!
I didn't stay too long, mostly because I really don't like leaving Marcy unattended down below.  Once I made my way down, I readjusted my pack and was on my way. There were a lot more people working for the summit as I was descending.  We only ran into one other dog (also leashed - wohoo!) but lots of people.  I was happy to be on my way out, I prefer to have my summits nearly alone! 

Now that I knew how long the trail really was, 2.4 not 1.2, it actually felt a lot faster.  Before I knew it, I was back encouraging Marcy to ford the pond again. I ran into a few more people even closer to the cars, one pair that I thought for sure they'd regret it - no water and the weather was turning.  

Once we were loaded up in the car, I had to re-evaluate our day.  It had taken longer to get to Poke than I had planned and the hike was longer than I anticipated, this meant that Black was out of the running, I had offered to pick a friend up at the airport at 4. I can still hike a nice brisk pace, driving to and hiking an additional 5-7 miles wasn't going to fly. But, I did still have time to check out Belfry Mountain.

The drive was easy, a total of 23 miles ( I ended up on the same route that I ran for my last leg of Ragnar last fall)  with clear sign for the Belfry tower. I got out of the car and could hear thunder.  I knew that climbing towards a metal structure was a really silly thing to do, but this 'hike' is only .4 from the car and a huge pita (pain in the ass) to get to.  I ditched my clunky hiking boots, put on my keens and started running up the hill to the fire-tower.  The trail is a very wide dirt road that even the corolla could have climbed.  I was at the summit within a few minutes. There was a large group up there checking out the view, totally unbothered by the darkening clouds and thunder. 

I quickly took some picture and tried to mentally will the people with a dog at the tower to hurry up, so that I could tie Marcy off and climb.  They were in no hurry.  The man offered for the dogs to go off leash to meet/play - and my response was that I was really hoping to get up and out of there before the storm came any closer.  The couple seemed a bit put off by my response, but Marcy has enough dog friends, she doesn't need to meet complete strangers on a mountain. (though I did get a phone number from a guy I met on top of the previous mountain...) 

They finally left ( really the whole process was only 5 minutes but I felt really foolish being next to firetower knowing that a storm was coming.) and I was able to hustle up the stairs.  The views would be great in clear weather. After a few minutes and a few claps of thunder I hauled down grabbed Marcy and ran back to the car.  We were able to get before the clouds opened.  

By then the weather looked as though there would be storms throughout the afternoon and I definitely wouldn't have enough time for the third mountain and my airport pick up.  Marcy and I made our way back to Albany with a nice stop at Country Drive In for some lunch/dinner ( I even bought Marcy a hamburger and she doesn't ever get human food) 

It was a nice day of adventure with my best dog.

Truck Trail RT 4.8 miles
Time: 2.5 hours

Belfry Mountain
RT: .8miles
time:  20 minutes

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