Monday, April 30, 2012

Traipsing Around the Tongue Mt Range

While waiting for the snow to melt in the Adirondacks and the mud to firm up, I'm revisiting some favorite spots and trying out some new ones.

Inlet to Northwest Bay on Lake George

Tongue Mountain Range, Lake George - Today finally felt more like it's supposed to end of March - cool, cloudy, temps in the upper 40s. A drastic difference from last week when it was near 80, but this is more my kind of weather for hiking. No bugs on the trail yet, although a mosquito did find me the other day in my home.

Since the high peaks were in various stages of rotting snow and mud, I decided to stay local and hike where I figured the conditions would be good under foot. The mountains in the Tongue Mountain Range might not be that tall, but don't let the lack of height fool you! The terrain is rugged with steep ups and downs. The loop I hiked is around 11.5 miles and 3700' of elevation gain. The range is home to a population of endangered timber rattlesnakes. They are not aggressive, but be aware where you step and sit and where you place your hands while climbing up and down rock ledges.

I started from the Clay Meadow trailhead, located right on Rt. 9N. The trail crosses a beautiful marshy area, which feeds into Northwest Bay on Lake George. When the trail starts climbing, there is pretty waterfall on your right. This on it's own is a great spot for a picnic. At the top of ridge the trail heads north towards File Mile Mountain, east down to Five Mile Point and Lake George (a great spot for swimming in the summer), and right (south) towards Montcalm Point. I headed south. The first spur trails leads to Fifth Peak and a lean-to, a popular destination for hikers. I was just there in the fall, so I skipped the climb up and instead continued on to French Point Mountain. I figured I would be doing enough elevation today:-)

From the spur trail, it's around 5.6 miles to Montcalm Point. Up down, up down, up down, and then up to French Point Mountain. The views grow increasingly spectacular with each high point. Finally, the summit of French Point Mountain. Wonderful vistas looking north and south through the narrows. The trail goes steeply down from here. Down in the col between French Point Mtn. and First Peak, I ran into the first people of the day. I thought I would see more, but there was the threat of rain later in the day, so maybe that kept traffic down.
Looking north through the narrows

First wildflower of the season
Pond along the trail

It's a long climb up to First Peak, but here, in my opinion, are the best views of the days. There is also a wonderful grassy area that makes for a scenic lunch spot and a well deserved rest! There was not a boat to be seen or heard on Lake George. Peaceful and quiet. This is the last peak of the climb, but certainly not the last climb of the day. There's a few more bumps to go over before the final descent to Montcalm Point. There are plenty of views on the way down and some interesting rock formations to keep one occupied.

From First Peak

And finally, the shoreline of Lake George. A few years ago I hiked this in early April. It was sunny and in the mid-eighties. With no tree cover yet, it was searingly hot. When we reached the water I removed my boots and plunged my feet in the water. Since the ice had just gone out on the lake, the water was frigid. Didn't take long for my feet to go numb, but it cooled me down! Today, there was no need to cool down, but I was wishing I had some tea to warm up!

View from Montcalm Point

I would like to say the trail is relatively flat back to the trailhead, but an elevation profile reveals around a 1000 foot of elevation gain. However, there are some wonderful stretches walking right along the shoreline on the Northwest Bay Trail. It's about 5 miles back. There were a few rain drops here and there, but the rain held back until I was back driving down the Northway. This loop is a high peaks workout without the high peaks!

Along the Northwest Bay Trail