Oh the Adirondacks. Where I cut my teeth climbing mountains with my dad and then later took up the mantle of hiking 46ers before lighting out to the West Coast. When I recently had the opportunity to go back to the "motherland" and do a hike with my cousin and some other great guys, I jumped at the opportunity to organize a hike up Buck Mountain near Lake George.
Lake George is the town 75% of all people mean when they say they have been to the "Adirondacks". Set in the Southern sliver of the Adirondack Park, LG is inundated by mini-golf, bars and random knickknack shops. However, if you gaze up from the neon and look across the lake to the Eastern side of the lake, you will see beautiful mountains that are begging to be hiked and you should for there will be time for mini-golf later.
Buck Mountain is one of those mountains and one pleading to be hiked. Situated about 7 miles out of LG proper, Buck is a very popular trailhead with cars packing the lot most of the time we were there.
The first mile is almost cruel in its flatness. Why is this cruel? Because you know the trail will be gaining 2,000 feet in 3.3 miles so as those miles tick off without much of an elevation gain, you know a big one is a comin'.
Whoever designed this trail also had a love affair with streams/cricks.
The trail crosses streams no less than four times in the first 1.5 miles. While possibly hewing to natural geography, I want to imagine the trail-builder as maniacally laughing as he took the trail over yet ANOTHER stream. "Let them try to cross that" he would cry, before looking up more pictures of beavers.
Still, all the waterworks give you some nice views of rock strewn streams and mini-waterfalls which provide good rest spots before heading up.
And head up you will. The trail really kicks into gear about 1.2 miles in and then it goes up.
Another difference in the ADKs from the West Coast which immediately hit me as I started this hike was that starting elevation means everything. If you are heading up to 5,300 feet but are starting at 3,900, you are up there but the elevation gain is manageable. A lot of hikes in the ADKs start at basically sea level (or just above it) and then head to you know where, u-p. This hike started at 300 feet and then went to 2,300. For some reason, I feel that the lower you start elevation-wise the more uphill you have to climb, which of course, has no bearing in reality.
As you make your way up, the climbing gets progressively rockier.
The variety of terrain on this hike reminds of yet another difference of hiking in SoCal. While vistas may change, the trails are usually fireroads of some sort. In the ADKs, they could be first dirt paths, then rooted or rock strewn etc. Unlike fireroads, you have to pay attention to the blazes along the way.
but they will point you in the right direction.
There are also an impressive array of erratic boulders strewn along the path from an ice age or 2 ago.
I didn't see anyone with boulder pads hiking in but I think this climbing trend will really start to make an impact in the ADKs like it has out West.
The final push to the summit is a quick scramble up some flat rock as soon as you pop up above the tree line.
Once you scramble up, all the elevation gain, all the stream crossings become worth it as you look out over the beauty that is LG.
The trail down was predictably quick and easy and then it was on to fun and mini-golf hijinks in LG. Many people visit the town but few see it from the vantage point I did on that beautiful day. A high recommend for those visiting the North Country.
A few things to note, on the Eastern side of the lake there are rattlesnakes. On the Western side, none, but where you are hiking, be sure to keep your eyes open.
Second thing to note, after a long day of hiking, nothing beats washing off the trail dust with some great brews and food from the ADK Pub and Brewery. This place is a solid after hike hang, a must do when you are in or around LG.
Also, a Big Shout Out to my boys who did this trip with me, you guys rocked and I don't mean maybe!
Here is a nice write up of the trails in case you don't want to take my word for it: http://www.adk.org/trails/BuckMountainHike.aspx