The fire tower of Hurricane, peeking over the summit
Hurricane Mountain (3694 ft)
Difficulty: Moderately Steep
Date of Summit: 5/5/2010
Trailhead to Summit: 2.6 miles
Trip Time: 4 hrs (which included a 30-minute break at top)
Ascent: 2000 ft
Average Walking Speed: 2.1 mph
It had been way too long since I was able to get down to the park and take in the view. It is amazing what an extra-snowy winter and 14-month old daughter will do to your availability and motivation for getting down to the Adirondacks for a hike. Luckily, the stars finally aligned for me to once again visit one of my favorite places on earth.
We had the pleasure of hosting my wife's sister, Molly, and her partner, Paul, for the past week. Molly and Paul live in London, England, so this visit was an extra special one, as it was not only their first experience of the North Country, but also their first official Poutine experience (but I digress...). I like to think that Paul and I agreed to endure a week's worth of shopping, baby oogling, and "sister talk" because we knew that one entire day would be set aside for just "us guys" to take a manly walk in the park.
Since this was Paul's first official "American Hike", I knew that it had to count. I spent some time researching hikes and asking questions of the helpful members on hikeadks.com and was beginning to realize that - although the recent days had said otherwise - there was a good chance we'd find some stubborn patches of snow and ice still atop the peaks. After much deliberation, I decided to choose Hurricane Mountain as Paul's first peak, as it appeared to not only be a challenging peak, but also a rewarding one - as far as the view is concerned.
Since there had been roughly 13 inches of snow fall in the park only a week before our planned hike (on April 28th), I knew that we had to be prepared. After packing the necessary materials and borrowing an extra pair of gaiters from my friend Josh, I was still short one pair of Stabilicers for Paul, in case we ran into icy conditions in the upper portions of the trail. Per the usual procedure, the men dropped the ladies in downtown Lake Placid for a day of shopping and socializing. This proved to be doubly convenient, as I was able to duck into the EMS Store and purchase their last pair of Kahtoola Microspikes for insurance against any potential ice.
By the time we got to the Route 9N trailhead outside of Keene (hit the jump for a Google street-view) at around 11:30am, the air was feeling cool (mid-60's) and bunches of unthreatening clouds filled the sky. Knowing that we had a hefty 2,000 ft. to climb in just 2.6 miles, we set out on the trail with our spirits high. Our spirits were quickly humbled by the immediate vertical climb that welcomed us, in which we climbed roughly 450 vertical feet in just under a quarter of a mile.
After this initial altitude jump and a quick stop for water, we enjoyed a brief respite from the vertical climb, by way of a relatively easy stroll through flatlands that were filled with a large pond (caused by beaver dams). Coming across a "mountaintop pond/lake" is always a wonderful surprise, as it combines two of my favorites types of natural views into one convenient package!
This oasis was unfortunately the last time I smiled (and maybe breathed properly) until reaching the top, as it was ALL UPHILL FROM THERE. My hamstrings, thighs, knees, and lungs were once again reminded of why Adirondack hikes are some of the most challenging in the world. This trail went straight up the mountain, utilizing various old riverbeds and other rocky-havens for the main trail (in looking at the elevation profile of our hike, it seems that we climbed over 1,000 vertical feet in just under one mile). While my body was screaming "NO!", what I saw on the trail was causing my mind to scream "YES!". There was not a single flake of snow or shard of ice to find anywhere. In fact, the trail - for the most part - was relatively dry. On top of that, I never once had to bring out my bug spray, as I had not seen a single black fly or mosquito. All of this was very peculiar, as this time of year was both Black Fly Season AND Mud Season in the Adirondacks. Those factors, coupled with the previous week's 13 inches of snow, demonstrated to me that, just as I had thought and hoped, all the stars were aligned for this trip.
The abandoned fire tower (notice the steps removed) overlooking
Lake Champlain and Vermont's Green Mountains
Finally, after roughly two-hours from leaving our car by the highway, we set foot on the bald, rocky peak. Having climbed a fair share of peaks in the park by now, I can happily report that Hurricane is one of the best views I've experienced in the park, and DEFINITELY the best view from a peak that is not included in the 46 highest (Hurricane is #72). The 360-degree view (click on panorama below) includes both the high peaks and Vermont (Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains). This, coupled with the abandoned and rusting firetower, make this a day-hike not to be missed. Paul and I enjoyed a lunch of beef jerky and sandwiches from the Big M atop Hurricane, and had it's vast summit all to ourselves that afternoon.
Our trip down, although it actually seemed slower-going than the way up (doesn't it always feel like that for some reason?), went a bit faster than we had expected. So, four hours later, with our bones and muscles sore, we drove victoriously back to Lake Placid to meet the ladies for an after-hike-drink at Great Adirondack Steak & Seafood Company (they brew some of the best beer in the North Country). So, while I set out to give Paul a "truly American outdoor experience", I discovered a great peak nestled in the northeastern corner of the park that I would definitely return to again. Maybe next time I'll get a chance to actually use those microspikes ;)