Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Another Thomas Mountain hike: 07/01/2012

Sunday’s hike up Thomas Mountain at the Lake George Land Conservancy’s Cat and Thomas Mountains Preserve represented “another” Thomas Mountain hike not just because we return to hike there every summer, but also because another route up the mountain has been added to the preserve’s trail network.

The as yet unnamed trail, referred to simply as the “new blue trail” on the preserve’s brochure and map, climbs at a moderate grade (approximately 500’ vertical in 0.8 miles) through a mixed hardwood forest to open ledges on the western slope of the mountain with views of the Schroon River valley and peaks of the southern Adirondacks beyond. The trail then continues through the attractive pine forest along the ridge top to Thomas Mountain’s summit.

View of Lake George's southern basin from the summit of Thomas Mountain.

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Lake George's southern basin from the summit of Thomas Mtn.

We did the hike on Sunday as a family hike, but since Beth was off hiking Redfield (she’s now down to just 3 more peaks for her 46), I brought along my sister and niece instead. This gave Daniel and Sylvie the fun of hiking with their older cousin, and allowed me the flexibility to stay with Sylvie so she could hike at her own pace when she needed to go slower. Bringing along friends for the kids or hiking with another family is an excellent family hiking strategy.

The new trail climbs through an attractive beech and maple forest

A short spur leads through the pines to a scenic overlook

For adults, the highlight of the hike undoubtedly is the sweeping view of Lake George’s southern basin, Cat Mountain directly to the south and other peaks to the west, including Crane Mountain and Gore Mountain. For kids of Daniel’s and Sylvie’s ages (eight and four and a half), views don’t seem as important as the fun of finding and exploring the cabin at the summit, blueberries (not quite in season yet), a garter snake, various frogs and toads, mosses, mushrooms and any moving water along the way.

Open ledges provide nice views across the Schroon River valley

The trail winds through more interesting ledges just below the summit

We returned via the “old” orange trail, the jeep road that was once used by the former owner of the property to bring prospective buyers to the summit cabin and show them the property’s dramatic scenery and its development potential. Though slightly shorter than the new blue trail, the jeep road is a bit rocky and eroded in places. The jeep road makes a loop hike possible, but I think most hikers will find the attractive, shady woods and scenic overlook of the new blue trail preferable to the jeep road.

The final scramble up to the summit cabin

Even with our relatively slow pace and lingering at the summit and the blue trail’s overlook, we covered the 4 mile, 700’ vertical round-trip in just over three hours. For an even shorter outing (around 3 miles and most of the vertical), the blue trail overlook is a very worthwhile destination. My cell phone photos (Beth took our “real” camera on her Redfield hike) don’t do the views there justice. Since the overlook faces west, morning is the time for the best photos. A crisp autumn morning with fog in the Schroon valley below would be beautiful – I’ll have to return.

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