Stone Valley Trail
Date of Hike: 11/26/2008
Loop Distance: 7.5 miles
Trip Time: 4 hrs
Temperature: 30's w/ wintry mix
This trip once again taught me that going "local" is always the best choice - whether it be locally grown food, local businesses with great customer service, or an amazing 7.5 mile just 15 minutes down the road from Potsdam. The Stone Valley Trail takes the hiker along both sides of the of the Racquette River shoreline (3.2 miles on each side with a .9 mile stretch linking them together via a bridge on either end). If you're an amateur geologist, you'll love this hike because of the diversity in the rock types (and informational geology plaques) along the trail. If you're a fan of waterfalls, you'll also love this hike, due to the frequent pockets of cascading water formations that one comes across throughout the hike. If you're a rock lover who enjoys fast moving water, I can't imagine how much this hike would make your day.
Byron and Cheryl Bennett were visiting us for Thanksgiving. After the treacherous Mt. Jo hike last year on this very same holiday weekend, I wasn't sure if Byron would ever want to take a walk with me in the outdoors again. Luckily, he was very much up for another challenge, so after assessing the weather forecast and realizing that there was a likely chance that the roads to the Adirondacks would be covered with snow/ice, we thought it would be best to stick closer to home.
After parking near downtown Colton (which consists of a bar, a library, and a hair salon), we started our northbound journey along the Racquette River. The first 1.5 miles was packed with great views of the cascading falls, complimented by a gradual foot trail that was a welcome change to the "straight up the mountain" philosophy of the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. The sun decided to peek through the clouds for a few minutes, only to leave us in an overcast and desaturated wash for the rest of the hike. The middle 4.5 mile portion of the hike found the river at a more peaceful state, as the intensity of Colton Dam's open floodgates had lost their power this far down the river.
With the Colton Water Tower serving as our beacon, we crossed the river on Brown's Bridge. After a quick (and light!) lunch of powerbars and tortilla chips, we began to follow the river back to Colton, by way of another trail on the other side of the river. This route turned out to be far superior to the first half, as it provided us with amazing views of the Racquette River. Even though we passed many of the same spots on the first half of the walk, it seemed almost as though the rock outcroppings on the second half of the trip existed specifically for us to walk out on them and catch dramatic glimpses of the river's power.
We ended the trip with a beer at The Finish Line, which turned out to be the perfect end (title and location) to the trip, perched atop the Colton Bridge, overlooking the distant southern rapids of the Racquette. Overall, this trip was quite a surprise - I didn't realize that something so special and majestic could be so close. Just as with Owls Head in the Adirondacks, this will surely be a hike that I frequent with visitors, due to the accessibility, convenience, and sheer "wow" factor it provides.