Following a short hiatus from hiking to tend to an injury, my hiking partner and I were back on the trail! This weekend my we had decided to tackle Tabletop Mountain. We’ve had a slow start to this winter’s hiking season and thought we’d take it relatively easy with this 9-mile round trip trek to Tabletop’s 4,427′ summit. At 4,427′, Tabletop Mountain ranks at number 19 in elevation among the Adirondack’s high peaks.
We are in the midst of the strangest winter hiking season I have ever experienced. The weather report for this January 31st was mind boggling. Overcast sky and high wind speed is the norm for the Adirondacks this time of year, but the day’s high temperature was hard to wrap my head around. Had an elder ever told me stories of warm January days in the Adirondacks I would have to question their sanity. This weekend the high temperature in Keene was expected to reach the mid forties. All around the valleys we can see bare ground dotted with only small amounts of crusty snow. With such strange weather I was uncertain of how much gear to have with me. to err on the side of caution, I brought everything I would carry for both fall and winter minus the extra gloves and hats.
We started out at 7:19 from the Adirondack Loj parking area. The temperature was already fairly warm. The sweet smell of spring was in the air. I could make out the sweet smell of pine, wood, and earth. Large groups of birds were singing as they flittered through the branches. I’m not sure if I would have noticed the prevalence of such things if I had expected them, but sound of the birds and the smell of the land is as unusual this time of year as the warmth.
The trail to tabletop follows along the well traveled trail to Mount Marcy before reaching the junction for the Tabletop heard path. Although not a maintained trail, the junction is well marked and the path is clearly recognizable. We had reached the Tabletop Mountain trail junction in 2.5 hours. the trail had gone from a thin crusty layer of ice to a well packed layer of snow. The trees around us had a heavy layer of snow weighing down their branches. We had walked from spring-like weather to a winter wonderland.
The heard path climbs steadily from this point. Our pace had slowed as we meandered our way through the narrow row of trees. The elevation gain is apparent as the views of the Macintyre Range come into view. Near the summit is an area of short vegetation with a great panoramic view of the Macintyre Range, Mount Colden, and distant views through Avalanche Pass to Santanoni.
The true summit is wooded with no views beyond the trees. There is a lookout shortly past the summit marker that opens up a view of Mt. Marcy, Mt. Haystack, and Basin in the Great Range. Wooded summits like this one are not the most popular among hikers hoping to reach the sweeping panoramas, but when looking for a great hike in the winter months without the ferocity of the wind, any of these wooded summits are a welcome respite. We stayed in the trees for a short while to refuel ourselves before saying goodbye to winter and heading back to the spring-like weather below.
Our total hike time was 7 hours and 3 minutes including our stops along the way and time at the summit. Hiking to Tabletop Mountain was the perfect warm up to our late start to the winter season.