With temperatures in the mid 50’s, partly cloudy skies, and a mild breeze on November 11th, the hiker in me would be a fool not to get out there and enjoy it! Bring on Big Slide Mountain!
At 4,240 feet, Big Slide Mountain claims 27th among the highest peaks of the Adirondacks. This hike is beautiful from the word “go”. Today I ventured off with two hiking buddies looking to reach the summit of one more Adirondack top 46. The sun goes down around 5:30 now so planning a ten-mile round trip hike does require a bit of advanced planning. We left base camp (my home in Plattsburgh) at 6:00 am and took the short drive south of the city to headed to Keen Valley. We couldn’t have asked for a better hiking day this far into November. The excitement in the car was evident as these three early morning hikers played music and laughed together.
We planned to take the hike as a loop that would take us from The Gardens parking area,up and over The Brothers, and back by way of the Johns Brook trail. Our choice to take the Brothers up couldn’t have been better! Taking the Johns Brook Trail from The Gardens parking lot is definitely not the ideal route. The hike along The Brothers is kind, rather easy, and provides incredible views down the great range from the rocky outcrops along the way. The views of the Great Range begin after only a short hike and continue for much of the trip to the summit. In between expansive views, one will dip into thick Birch tree forests padded with a soft moss floor.
In recent weeks, the temperatures in the Adirondacks has been chilly and brought with it a bit of snow. Today with the sun shining and temperatures this warm, the snow and ice was melting away. All of the exposed rocks were bare of snow and ice, but in the thicker covering of trees there were still pillows of snow topping the moss and ice along the trail. A good pair of traction devices for your hiking shoes is critical this time of year. We tried to travel along without them for quite some time. One of us went without exclaiming “if our ancestors can do it, so can I !” I admit, we did strap our spikes on as we climbed up the side of Big Slide, but they certainly made for a much safer climb. I say “my ancestors only wish they had these in their time”. If I were taking this hike in the deep winter months, despite the fantastic views, I would probably opt to take the Johns Brook Trail up for pure safety reasons.
Treated with incredible views all along the way, my hiking party and I were poised to reach the summit for a rewarding snack, great views, and time to sit and talk about our journey. As with my kayaking trips, we do these hikes in moderate silence broken by the occasional conversation or “look over there”. At the summit we reminisced about the hike, ate our egg salad sandwiches and GORP, took a few photographic mementos, and stared out over the vast view stretching out before us. Another group and one lone hiker had joined us at the summit. The open space isn’t much, and gave all of us some time to interact with each other. When you reach a summit, and there’s someone to talk to, go ahead and talk. I bet you’ll learn something. As we all spent time together, ate, drank, and photographed each other, a small wildlife creature joined the party to indulge itself on the cheese and crackers of the small group who had just finished their seventh of the 46. just yards away, this hungry American Marten snacked. He (or she) seemed to be a pro at snagging Hikers snacks at the summit. Without fear, the Marten came back for more and stood close enough for all of us to capture a snapshot.
Bellies filled and time against us, we packed up, said goodbye to our new hiking friends, and headed back to the Garden parking area via the Johns Brook Trail. The Johns Brook trail takes a steep dive for about a mile from the summit over rocky terrain. Leveling out closer to the brook, this trail does offer views through mixed hardwood forests, the sounds of the running waters, occasional water crossings, and large sporadic boulders. I am a bit of a water lover, so any time we had near Johns Brook made me happy. From the junction for Johns Brook lodge to the right and the Garden parking lot to the left, this hike does become less stimulating and more a ‘means to the end’. the trail of mud traverses through various campsites in sparse forest land and lacks the visual stimulation of the last 7 miles. The benefit here is the two miles of relatively flat terrain provide the perfect cool down hike after a long uphill climb. I found myself thinking more about how I wanted my after-hike burger to be prepared than anything else. thinking so intently about a delicious ground beef patty smothered in cheese, bacon, and mushrooms made this leg of the hike seem to last forever.
Reaching the parking area with wet socks, muddy shoes, and grumbling bellies, we all talked about our own desire to eat. It was time to pack it in and say goodbye to Big Slide and venture off to our favorite dining spot, The Lake Placid Pub and Brewery, to indulge and talk about our day. Another fantastic hike in the Adirondacks was behind us. In front of us was the next proposed hike next weekend to the summit of the Adirondacks highest peak, Mount Marcy.