SWIMMING THROUGH TREES: Hiking the Elk Lake Preserve, Day 1 of 3

View from the summit of Boreas Mountain (Photo provided — Spencer Morrissey)

It has been a long time coming that Corenne and I were to stay at the Elk Lake Lodge. We have talked many times, over a cold beer, about hiking a bunch of their trails and revisiting the 100 highest peaks that reside on the property.

You see, the trails on the Elk Lake property are only open to guests of the lodge, which in my opinion make them quite unique and, as you may have guessed, very quiet. It was Corenne’s birthday, or soon to be, so I thought I would put out a little surprise for her.

Boreas Mountain

Once we got checked in at the lodge, they were kind enough to set us up with a property map with all the trails outlined. This is important; their trails are not on other maps. We decided to go for Boreas Mountain as our day one hike of choice. While I am not super familiar with their trails, and the map they gave us was busy with the trails leading from the lodge, I decided we should start along the Marcy Trail until we intersect theirs.

We hiked back up the road to the state trailhead and made our way as the trail descended back down to Shore of The Branch. This crossing was over a swinging bridge, which did just that, along with a little bouncing. We then crossed Nellie Brook over a solid wood bridge along an old woods road. This road would be our route to the base of Boreas Mountain.

Just over the bridge, the state trail to Panther Gorge and Mount Marcy exited sharply uphill, and we remained low on the road. The mosquitos were out in the low areas of the road where wet features surrounded us.

The soft woods road under our feet soon ended as we came to a massive intersection with another foot trail and logging road that was recently developed. Unfortunately, we had to use the logging road. While it was not attractive, it was easy to walk on and got us where we needed to go in right fast fashion. On a good note, there were several moose tracks along the road. Maybe we would get a glimpse of the allusive Adirondack moose. That dream kept us motivated.

Fire observer’s cabin

We knocked off the logging road quickly, mainly because it was pretty much all downhill along a gentle slope, which I am sure won’t feel as gentle later in the day. Now back in the forest under a tight canopy of green, we started our climb.

After a short stint on a narrow footpath, we had to climb ever so steeply up an embankment and onto an old woods road, which essentially was the access road to the observer’s cabin. The road was a delight, ever so soft under our feet, even better than the one from earlier. It climbed steadily as the brook babbled down past us on the left. Hopping a couple smaller washed-out stream beds, we came upon an attractive grassy field which was the location of the old fire observer’s cabin.

The route was now a narrow foot trail, not all that dissimilar to those found in the High Peaks region. Once we crossed a small stream, it was all uphill and at times very uphill.

While still quite soft and seemingly unused by the masses, we had only one small section of wet, muddy terrain. Leaves littered the trail, showing signs of autumn knocking on the door, yet it was very humid and hot. We could smell the decaying leaves and the moist odor of mushrooms that lined the trail. We could hear the squirrels dropping pine cones from the tops of the evergreens, foraging for winter’s pantry.

Summiting Boreas Mountain

Much of what the Adirondacks had to offer was right in front of us, and then we stood atop Boreas Mountain, where the fire tower once stood, where only a concrete block and some metal anchors remain. The views are fantastic, even lacking the fire tower. We only imagined the sweeping views the tower must have open up in its time. We could see the Dix Range as it tower high over Elk Lake. Clear Pond glistened below. Another viewing area called my name a little farther left, and it was a gem of a view.

Standing atop a small split rock, we could see the entire sweeping ridge of the Great Range all the way to Allen. It was getting late, and we had spent a lot of time on the summit and wanted to get back to the lodge for tea in the lounge and then dinner.


(Spencer Morrissey is a licensed outdoor guide and author of a few Adirondack adventure books.)