What I did this weekend on the Adirondack Coast…….. Closed out the winter hiking season.

This weekend it was time to wave goodbye to hiking season for my hiking partner and me. A few weeks ago while standing on the summit of Hurricane Mountain we looked across to Giant mountain and Rocky Peak Ridge. We made the decision to make that hike the finale of the 2012-13 winter hiking season.  As the weather warms, all I can think of is getting back to the water. We bid a final farewell to the mountains the best way we knew how. The journey we took has solidified its place as the most magnificent Adirondack hike I have ever experienced. The perfectly blue sky, magnificent views, and warm air made this day unbeatable.

Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge from Hurricane Mountain.
Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge from Hurricane Mountain.

We planned in advance to take an 11.6 mile trek that would lead us over Giant Mountain, Rocky Peak Ridge, Rocky Peak, Bald Mountain, Mason Mountain, and the Blueberry Cobbles. This is a two car trip requiring that one be left at the Rocky Peak Ridge trailhead on route 9 in the town of New Russia, and the other at the Giant Mountain/Roaring brook trailhead along route 79.

Our journey today started out at the Giant Mountain trailhead with the intention that we would see the most rewarding views throughout our hike facing east toward lake Champlain. The trail to the summit of Giant Mountain from the Roaring Brook trailhead is a fair hike with plenty of space for relaxing on level ground and a few designated campsites. We have been conditioned to hiking on snow packed trails this winter. The spring thaw had brought the unfamiliar presence of rocks and tree roots beneath our feet. I stumbled up the first mile of the trail as if I had just learned how to walk again (or barely walk). The last mile of the trail brought the familiar footing of hard packed trail, while everything in between was a mixed bag of snow, rock and mud.

At 3.6 miles, we reached our first stop at the summit of Giant Mountain. Standing 4,626 feet, Giant Mountain is the twelfth highest peak in the Adirondacks. The summit has a large section of bare rock to sit, relax, and look out down the great range toward the highest peaks of the Adirondacks. Arriving at 11:11 am, we had the summit to ourselves. The warm early sun made for the perfect space to relax on the rocks and enjoy some snacks and soak up the beauty.

The view from the summit of Giant Mountain.
The view from the summit of Giant Mountain.

After a long relax on Giant Mountain, we were ready to hop over to our next stop at the summit of Rocky Peak Ridge. The 1.2 mile trail from Giant to Rocky Peak Ridge is a very steep, narrow, and direct route. The trail was covered in loose, wet, melting snow and ice. Our decision to travel in one direction was confirmed as a great idea when we considered the hike back up. After a quick descent, the trail becomes a leisurely gentle stroll to the top. Rocky Peak Ridge sits at #20 in height reaching 4,420′. Although very nearby the more popular Giant Mountain and Rocky Peak Ridge boast more magnificent unobstructed 360 degree views as far off as the Green Mountains of Vermont, The entire length of Lake Champlain, and up into the Great Range .

View from the summit of Rocky Peak Ridge, Giant Mountain on the right.
View from the summit of Rocky Peak Ridge, Giant Mountain on the right.

Looking down from the summit of Rocky Peak Ridge, we could see the peaks of each of the smaller mountains we would be traveling over before reaching the end of our journey. The majority of this trek is over bald rock with nearly unobstructed views to the east and magnificent close up sights of the Adirondacks. Our next stop after Rocky Peak Ridge is the summit of Rocky Peak. One of the highest ponds in the Northeast, Marie Louise Pond, makes the space between Rocky Peak Ridge and Rocky peak its home. I’d imagine that relaxing on the shoreline for a bit would be in the cards for any hiker, had it not still been trapped in ice.

Looking back at Rocky Peak Ridge and Giant Mountain from the summit of Rocky Peak
Looking back at Rocky Peak Ridge and Giant Mountain from the summit of Rocky Peak

Next stop, Bald Mountain. All of the mountains we traversed after the summit of Rocky Peak Ridge are lesser in height, but huge on views. Bald Mountain is no exception. Bald mountain boasts a long stretch of a nearly treeless summit, sheer cliffs, and one unique teetering glacial erratic perched on the edge.

Looking back from Bald Peak toward Rocky Peak.
Looking back from Bald Peak toward Rocky Peak.

From the last treeless summit of Bald Mountain, we paused at the edge to look out over Lake Champlain. It was the ultimate way to say goodbye to hiking season and wave hello to kayak season. With the High Peaks to our back and Lake Champlain before us, we continued on into the trees for the 3.9 mile descent. Our legs were growing tired, thoughts of sitting down to a large meal swimming through our minds, and still feeling the rush of all that we accomplished, we trudged on .

Distant views of Lake Champlain.
Distant views of Lake Champlain.

As much as I keep telling myself that this was my last hike until Autumn, I’m sure I’ll find myself with the urge to ascend at least once before then. Between long weekend paddles, after work SUP, camping, maintaining a social life, and of course the 9-5, I’ll find time, somehow.

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