Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Hurricane Mountain: 10/11/2015
If you're planning on hiking in the High Peaks region this fall hopefully you got up there over Columbus Day weekend. The colors will hang on for another weekend or two, especially at low elevation, but the foliage for the holiday weekend was as peak as it's gonna get this year. With three days straight of gorgeous weather, we decided to hike Hurricane Mountain, the popular 3700' peak in Keene that is well known for its panoramic views of the High Peaks.
Despite Hurricane's popularity , there are quieter routes up the peak. Of the 3 trails that lead to the summit, most hikers seem to prefer the trail from Route 9N. We chose the slightly longer route from Crow Clearing, at the end of O'Toole Road. "Quiet" is a relative term, and on this very busy Columbus Day weekend we were lucky to grab one of the last parking spots at the trailhead. Just as we were signing in at the trail register, another 4 or 5 cars pulled up. It looked like they were able to squeeze in with some creative parking, leaving nearly 20 cars in a lot that was designed to hold more like 12.
Of course once we were on the trail we hardly saw any other parties, but the woods were hardly quiet. A brisk, steady wind raked the trees and rustled the leaves, even at the lowest elevations. Our route offered the benefit of a relatively gentle grade, and much of the first two miles were spent in beautiful maple and birch hardwoods that glowed yellow and red.
Eventually the grade steepened and the woods transitioned to spruce. The birch and ash trees of the higher elevations had already shed their leaves. At three miles from the trailhead, we emerged from the woods onto Hurricane's broad open summit.
The views from Hurricane extend from Whiteface through the MacIntyre Range, Marcy, the Great Range, Sawteeth, Colvin and Blake, the Dixes and Giant. The Lake Champlain valley is visible to the east, more than 3,000 feet below, with Vermont's Green Mountains as a backdrop. The breeze that had rustled the leaves at lower elevations earlier in our hike was a steady wind out of the northwest, and with temperatures in the 40s there was no doubt that fall was in the air and winter not far behind. We found a sheltered spot on the summit ridge to get out of the wind and enjoy our lunch.
Hurricane has a fire tower, and it is one of the ADK Fire Tower Challenge peaks. You certainly don't need to climb the tower in order to enjoy Hurricane's views, and in fact until quite recently you couldn't climb the tower at all, as it had been officially abandoned by the DEC for many years and the lower flights of steps removed. However the tower has recently undergone some restoration work (which will continue next summer), the steps have been replaced and the tower is now accessible to the public. The tower's cab lacks windows and window frames, and half of the roof is missing, but there's a fantastic 360-degree view from the top. You can read more about the restoration work that is currently going on at Hurricane and three other Adirondack fire towers here.
All good things must come to an end, and it was eventually time for us to begin our trek back down the mountain. Many years when we've hiked over Columbus Day weekend we've encountered the season's first snow. No snow this year, but it's coming soon.