I did my first hike of the year on 5/21/11. It was a beautiful day, some clouds in the sky, high 60's, and for once it wasn't raining here in the Adirondacks. The hike all started around 2:30ish when me and my girlfriend decided that we wanted to get out of the house and do something. So my first reaction was "Let's go on a hike." We were thinking an easy hike since it was our first of the year, we didn't want anything too strenuous as our first trip out into the wilderness. So I did a quick search on Google for Day Hikes in the Adirondacks and came across a wonderful PDF file called Adirondack Great Walks & Day Hikes (http://www.visitadirondacks.com/pdf/greatwalks.pdf) I checked the map index and went with a section close to me, section 7. After clicking on page 7 to view the places near me the first one sounded pretty good. It's labeled easy 1.8 miles round trip; Silver Lake Mtn. So we make the decision that is where we are going.
So me, her and her daughter all gather a few things for our hike. Since I just got a new hiking bag for day hikes I wanted to use it, so I loaded it with two Nalgene bottles filled with water, a knife, a compass, a long sleeved shirt for my girlfriend, and one for her daughter. I also had my camera in the bag, and 3 flashlights, two of which were headlamps and one was a flashlight with a red strobe light and a siren on it (supposed to be use in car emergencies but figure it'll work good in the woods too). My girlfriend had packed her camera gear in her hiking camera bag, included her camera, lenses and her tripod. Her daughter, well, she had a hiking stick that I gave her that my grandpa made. We made a trip to Gander Mountain in Plattsburgh to grab a couple things, and I finally grabbed a magnesium fire starter which of course I didn't have to use, but I gave it a shot. I believe I need a wee bit more practice before I get lost and need to use it.
So we arrive at Silver Lake Mountain. We pull in and start grabbing out gear out of the trunk of the car. I had a couple more walking sticks so we each had one to make hiking a tad bit easier. My girlfriend and her daughter grab their bug nets and bug spray and put it all on. I was without a bug net but I had spray that I used, and I used a lot. The bugs were mean and came in swarms. It wasn't a windy day so there was no breaks from them unless you kept moving, but as soon as you would stop they would swarm you, getting in your ears, eyes, mouth, nose, and if they couldn't get to your orifices then they would go for any exposed skin just to annoy you. We had all worn long sleeves and pants to be protected, but it was so hot we were constantly tempted to go short sleeved.
Anyway, at the beginning of the trail we stopped before even entering the trail because of my girlfriend wanted to get some pretty pictures of the trillium that was right at the trail head. So while she did that I did what I have done best since I was a little kid, I searched for amphibians. I don't care what kind, frog, toad, salamander, I'm hunting for it, I want to see it! So I turn over a long, nothing, I go to turn over another log and I hear a rustle in some leaves so I look over, there's a baby Wood Frog standing on some... you guessed it, some wood and leaves.
After enjoying the pleasure of seeing it, holding it, showing to my girlfriend and her daughter, then releasing it back into the spot I saw it and taking a picture of it I continued on my hunt. I turn over a couple more logs not finding much of anything other than slugs, centipedes, millipedes, and ants with red thorax's (not up on my ant species so if anyone knows please let me know). All of a sudden I turn one over and find a newt, an orange salamander with red spots on it's back. I've seen these type of salamanders all my life, they have always been one of my favorites, probably because of how often I see them and how docile they are. Usually when you tip over a log or a rock and find one they don't run away, they just stay right there. These newts are the babies, and grow into darker brown color as adults and spend most of their time in or around water. It's not unusual to find these young ones far away from water. They usually lay their eggs in temporary water holes so as not to be eaten up by fish and turtles. Now mind you I've lived in the Plattsburgh area for around 6 years and have not been able to spot a single one of these for some reason with all the searching I've done for them. So I was overly excited about this find although there are still many salamander species which I am looking for.
Then after I was done with my salamander hunt and my girlfriend was done with her picture taking and her daughter was done admiring the things around us we finally made our trek up the mountain. It started off decently, not too steep but steep enough. After a few minutes of that it started to go on a bigger incline than I expected. I was thinking back to the pdf I was looking at and wondering if this is really something they should have labeled as easy. I would have considered it a moderate hike personally. If I had known that I probably wouldn't have forced all of us out of shape from sitting around during winter people up it. We hiked and hiked, then we stopped and rest and fought the black flies, then we'd get up and hike and catch a break from the flies only to take a rest and get bombarded again. The trail at first wasn't too muddy, but as we made our way up it seemed to get quite muddy in some spots. Spots where the trail seemed to have been washed away from all the rain we've had the past month we could see rock bed underneath. I would say the mountain at times got as steep as Poke-O-Moonshine does and that ones listed as moderate hike. I do not believe the mountain has an open summit as I didn't see one, but then again we may have called it quits a bit early on the trail. Although there were some open rock faces with some good views although they were slightly obstructed by trees. On the hike up I had seen numerous orange newts just hanging out on the rock beds of the trail. Go figure I haven't seen one in years and now all of a sudden it's raining newts. We all admired them for a while. We stopped at one rock face and took a rest and when we all sat down a baby toad started hopping around. So of course we got pictures and I couldn't resist holding 'em because I'm obsessed with amphibians.
During one point of the hike I had my girlfriend and her daughter stay behind at one rock face while I ventured up higher to see if it was worth getting them to meet me up there. So I walked up the trail a bit further and started having to do a little bit of rock climbing, got to a flat landing and saw no sign of trail or a way to get much higher. I figured it wasn't worth them getting up there since the view wasn't any better where I was and it was quite difficult, had me extremely winded. So I went back down to where they were and we headed back down the trail. Since gravity was working with us it was a bit easier and seemed like a tiny mountain for as quickly as it took for us to get to the bottom.
We put all our stuff back in the car and went to leave. Across from the parking area is a dirt road called "Island Road" which I couldn't resist taking a drive down. We got to a spot that was cleared out and had some ferns that weren't quite in bloom yet, they still looked a bit like a fiddle head. Then we took some pictures of Silver Lake, the Island on Silver Lake, the sunset behind the mountains, and I decided to grab a quick picture of the mountain we had hiked up.
Click for large Panorama of Silver Lake
On the way home it was getting dark, it was around 8:30 and we came across a field that was covered in some very low lying fog and an old barn. We stopped and got some pictures of that, then we finally made our way home.
Click for large Panorama of low lying fog and barn
All-in-all it was a great hike although it wasn't what I would consider easy for anyone out of shape or even for anyones first hike of the year. I would say it's more of a moderate hike. Definitely a good one with some pretty good views and if you're more adventurous you may find a way around the spot I stopped at and called it quits at. I have a feeling this is going to be a summer filled with hiking. Which means this blog is going to be overflowing with my Adirondack adventures.