SWIMMING THROUGH TREES: Hiking the Elk Lake Preserve, day 2 of 3
Rise and shine, as the breakfast bell went off, offering us up some gluten-free French toast, bacon, fresh fruit and, most importantly, coffee. Luckily Elk Lake Lodge had a bag lunch waiting for us because day two was to be a full day as we planned to climb Sunrise, Grandpa Pete, and Clear Pond Mountains.
After breakfast, we took a few minutes to pack our belongings and give ourselves some time and let our larger-than-expected breakfast reach our hollow legs.
Then we were off and hitting the trail to Sunrise Mountain, another of the Adirondack 100 highest peaks located on the property. We started by following the East Shore Trail from near the lodge. This trail was yet another delight under our feet.
It wasn’t too long before we crossed the Dix Trail and started up the Sunrise Trail. We passed by a couple other small intersections along the way. One in particular was Cadillac Drive and the Clear Pond Trail. From this major intersection, we were truly on the Sunrise Trail, with no other option than to go up. The trail follows an old abandoned woods road, which is a pleasure to walk on, soft and colorful. We enjoyed every minute of it. Once the trail tightened into more of a foot trail, the tread also became narrow, as it was lined with green moss on either side. The terrain began a gentle climb as it inched ever closer to the summit. We soon reached Little Sally Brook on our left; the waters flowed with a soothing sound only we could hear.
The trail steepened more, as some Adirondack mud began to appear in front of and beneath us. We rock hopped what we could and wallowed in the rest. It’s kind of like jumping in the lake; you know it’s going to be cold, but once you’re in, it isn’t too bad. With mud, you know it’s going to be messy, but once you’re in, who cares?
Soon we found ourselves at the first viewing area. This steeply banked rock surface afforded us outstanding views of the Elk Lake region. A little slippery from the night’s rain, we carefully made our way to the trail in the trees. The terrain steepened more and at one point got very steep, as we continued to climb toward the top of the false summit. Just prior to the false summit, we stood atop the second viewing area — almost twin to the first but just slightly higher. Just as we were to crest the false summit, Corenne noticed something dead in the trail. We looked down, and it wasn’t dead at all. It was a baby bunny, warming up in the morning sun. Not moving, we managed to snap a few pictures of the killer fur ball before it decided to hop off under a tree root.
A short descent would bring us to a high col, just below the summit of Sunrise. The climb was steady, steep in a few spots but overall very moderate. The top had a nice rocky lip awaiting us for some outstanding views. Below us, we had Elk Lake. To our left, we had Clear Pond, Boreas Mountain and the Hoffman Mountain Wilderness. To our right, we could look up the long spine of the Dix Range, with Macomb right in front. Behind us, we had trees, lovely trees mind you.
A 15-minute summit stop was all we could do; we were chilled to the bone. The wind was blasting us, our shirts were wet, and the combination of the two was very uncomfortable. Putting on our pack seemed like a block of ice against our wet shirt. It was a little slippery on the steep slopes, and we managed to survive passing by the bunny for a second time. We passed over the first view and quickly found ourselves back onto moderate ground, except now there were fresh moose tracks. They weren’t there on the way in, and they were heading in the same direction as us. The odds that it passed us while we were taking pictures of the rabbit were slim, but we must have walked pretty close by it on the way up.
We never did see the moose. We followed the tracks until they must have passed into the forest; they were just no longer there. We opted for a bit of change in scenery, so we followed Cadillac Drive back to the Elk Lake Road where we would proceed back to the car, which wasn’t all that far away.
Our plan was to now head over and climb Clear Pond Mountain and Grandpa Pete Mountain while looping around Clear Pond.
(Spencer Morrissey is a licensed outdoor guide and author of a few Adirondack adventure books.)