SWIMMING THROUGH TREES: Hurricane Mountain traverse
We took advantage of living in the area and used a second car for a traverse of Hurricane Mountain. If you are not from the area, I highly recommended hooking up with other hikers to do the same.
The plan was to use the Fire Warden’s Trail and the Route 9N Trail for a full day’s outing on a peak that, when done in winter, takes on an entirely new dramatic face.
We first dropped a car at the state trailhead, filled the passenger seat of the second car and drove over to Hurricane Road in Elizabethtown. Hurricane Road is lightly maintained during this time of year and gets little to no plowing, so as a winter route, it can be very hit or miss if you can make it to the summer parking. Unfortunately for us, there was a bit too much snow on the road, making for non-existent travel, and a snowplow berm was built up anyhow making even the daredevil in us unable to get through.
We started our hike along the road and eventually passed by the summer trailhead, which was farther away than we thought, and went through the gate just up from the road. While road walks are not the most exciting times in the woods, it was an easy snowshoe and a warmup for the steeps. We followed the old road/trail and made great time through the couple inches of fresh powder. The road eventually ended at a small clearing, which used to be the area where an old lean-to once set at the crossing of the ice-covered Falls Brook.
This was the start of the actual foot trail. This trail, compared to the other two, gets very little use. It was nice to the eyes and slightly softer under foot, mainly because it wasn’t broken out and covered in a thick coating of confectioner’s snow. It doesn’t take long for this short, steep trail to begin its arduous ascent of Hurricane Mountain. On more than one occasion, actually on more than a half dozen occasions, we had to utilize Mother Nature’s handrails — trees — to pull ourselves up along the icy sections. We instituted the bicycle kick technique to grab some traction. Not far after a very small flat area, we popped out onto our first rocky view. We could see the fire tower looming just below the clouds on this gray day.
The final push to the summit was fantastic — continual views, cold arctic breeze nipping at our every inch of bare skin and a rugged climb. The final summit view was as rewarding as any peak in the Adirondack Park. Knoblock, Green and the rest of the Giant Mountain Wilderness was right before us. Slightly beyond were the High Peaks and the Great Range. Then the other direction was the long ridge of Nun-Da-Ga-O and the Crows. If it wasn’t so cold and windy, with no protection, we would have lounged around a little longer, but the warm protection of the trees was calling to us.
Plummeting off the opposite side of the peak, we worked our way across the open rock and dropped steeply into the trees and de-layered a bit at the trail junction for Crow Clearing. From this point we began our steep descent down to Route 9N. This trail was a nice relief, as it was heavily trafficked and we could take off our snowshoes and put on micro-spikes, which were easier for walking on such compacted conditions. Eventually it leveled off to our pleasure, and we enjoyed the frozen views from the foot bridge over a memorable marshy area. Continuing on a flat course to the final viewing area, which I call Hurricane Bluffs high above Route 9N, we got a different take on the beauty of the area. All that was left now was the short descent to the trailhead and our second car.
Remember, it’s winter out there, so be prepared and expect winter conditions and extreme conditions. Snowshoes and other traction are required and needed.
This is a fantastic loop peak, if you can have the second car option. A third trail could be used as part of a loop; it’s longer and would exit you out at Crow Clearing on O’Toole Road in Keene, but that’s a story for another day. On a final note, Hurricane is a great introduction to winter mountain climbing, especially as one used for High Peaks preparation.
(Spencer Morrissey is a licensed outdoor guide and author of a few Adirondack adventure books.)