SWIMMING THROUGH TREES: Hiking the Elk Lake Preserve, day 3 of 3
We had just come down off of Sunrise Mountain, with a decent little hop in our step, and we were looking forward to checking out a couple of peaks we’d never been up before: Clear Pond Mountain and Grandpa Pete Mountain.
The trailhead was a little farther down the road than the one for Sunrise, so we had to take a drive — just enough time for our muscles to start thinking about tightening up.
Once at the trailhead, which was only big enough for three small cars, we crossed the road and started our hike along the Clear Pond Loop (which we also managed to by the end of the afternoon). Following the trail in a counter-clockwise direction, the mileage clicked off rather quickly. The footing was soft under our feet, which was a pleasure to our senses, you know, the ones connected to our toes.
We passed over the small bridge to the outlet where we could clearly see our destinations across the water Progressing at a decent clip, we soon came to the trail for Clear Pond Mountain. Located under 1 mile away, we knew it might just be a steep climb to reach the summit. The trail was still in really nice shape, and only one tree was across the trail, but that didn’t slow us down much. Now a steady climb and just like many Adirondack trails, it went straight up the fall line. Eventually the trail lightened up and reached a shallow col covered in ferns and moss.
The trail, to our surprise, ended at an outstanding view, but it was not on the true summit of the mountain. The true summit lied south, roughly 0.25 miles away from the open rock view. Of course, with my need to visit the highest point, I suggested we go over there after lunch. Corenne opted to remain at the view and take a nap; she was not optimistic about there being a better view over there.
“The trail would have gone there if it was a better view,” she persisted.
We ate our bag lunches from the lodge, and then I broke out the GPS and made a straight heading to the true summit, not caring if the view was better or not, or even if there was one.
I headed back down the trail, only slightly, before entering the bush to the base of a small cliff. I meandered my way up the steep slopes of the cliffs, through entangled hay-scented ferns and reached the flat ridge. I progressed higher along the ridge to a small view, located only slightly before the summit. The summit then offered amazing views. Were the views better? Maybe. And they were just as good in the opposite direction. I returned swiftly to a dozing Corenne, only to brag about the unique view. While surprised, I think she enjoyed the 15 or so minutes of shuteye.
We descended swiftly, maybe too swiftly at times, as Corenne made a lasting impression on a muddy slope. Later we discovered that her sunglasses fell off her head on that muddy slope and remained there for the next visitor to enjoy — her third pair in as many months.
Now back at the Clear Pond Trail, we headed a little farther around the pond, where the footing was a tougher as it passed over exposed roots of old cedar trees. Eventually we were at the Grandpa Pete Mountain trailhead. Again, just under 1 mile to the summit, we knew our legs would soon become slightly more like Jell-O. The trail was a steep in the beginning, and soon the trail moderated and even slightly dropped a bit as it passed by a large wall of rock that towered almost 100 feet from the earth. The trial followed this wall until it made a graduated effort to pass up a super steep slope to the top of the cliffs and the stunning summit views. We rested here for quite some time, tempted to nap myself, then got up and descended back to the Clear Pond Trail.
We decided it would actually be closer to finish hiking around the pond at this point, and in all honesty, even as tired as we were, we wanted to see the rest of the trail. Even if it were longer, I think we still would have done it. Continuing along the trail, we contended with more exposed roots of giant cedars that lined the shore. On occasion, we had soft uninterrupted footing below us. We soon came to Jones Beach, a nice place to swim, had it been more than slightly warmer than it was. After a couple precarious bridge crossings, we finally could move over an attractive trail lined with mossy edges. We were back to the boat launch area very quickly and at the car shortly thereafter.
We wished the weekend didn’t have to come to an end; another night would have been nice. The drive home ended up being a chore. We literally had to eat our way home and wash it down with coffee. The sun in our eyes, while warm and beautiful, was like a lullaby in our ears. Elk Lake Lodge had ended up being like a home away from home, and after a mileage-packed weekend, we still felt refreshed only like a mini-vacation can offer.