Frum Outdoorsman: Rare but Possible

The wanderings and adventures of an orthodox Jew

Hiking the Tongue Mountain Range

Posted by Frum Hiker on November 1, 2007

Small shafts of bright sunlight shined through the canopy of swaying trees. The sunlight shifted with the sway, and all that could be heard was a slight rustling of the curled and colored leaves. Bright red and orange leaves hanging on for dear life struggled to stay hooked into their life source with each passing breeze, every few moments a new breeze would send several leaves into flight as they swirled and plummeted to the already blanketed ground.

I stopped for a moment to wipe my sweaty brow, I listened intently for I could have sworn I had just some sort of sound, but all was quiet, in fact, other then distant breezes shaking the forest above me not much could be heard. An airplane in the distance, a chipmunk squirming into a dead log, my heavy breathing. My brows fluids deposited onto the sleeve of my long sleeve t-shirt I continued with renewed vigor of the steady incline, I was making a racket as I plowed up hill parting the thousands of leaves with a crunch as if I was parting the red sea.

The sugar maples were bursting forth in this red like never before, it must should have been past peak foliage I thought to myself as I drove past the placid gray waters of Lake George on my way to this most magnificent trail system, but nevertheless here I was walking through a fall forest of color and crunch. The damp leaves in the nearby water filled depressions sent lovely damp autumnal smells to my nose. Smells that only come with autumn, smells that remind me that snow is near and the days of summer are gone, a distant memory only to return with a bud on a tree and maddening rain storms to wash away the remnants of winter in the forms of overflowed ice choked creeks and flooded basements.

I stop again, amazed that such silence exists so close to such vast human development, why the road is only a couple miles away, a road that during the summer is choked with tourists who come up to the area to eat soft serve ice cream from road side stands and miniature golf before retiring to the million dollar beach. Thankfully the tourists were gone as well, to be replaced by contractors fixing the damage and a few locals like myself trying to shake off society and be y ourselves in the wild.

Suddenly the light fades, I can see perfectly but I just passed into a thick and dense patch of evergreens, fully green and full of needles they make he trail into a soft carpet like path. Tall grayish cliffs rise up to the side of me with trickles of water seeping from the moss that dots the rock outcroppings. Suddenly I am once again in the bright forest of deciduous trees and crunching along savoring the few scrambling rodents and sucking in the smells of vast amounts of dead fall and decaying leaves.

At the intersection of a few trails I whip out a banana and debate where to go, to the left I can see a steep incline and a mountain of 2200 feet. A fellow hiker with a tripod sticking out of his pack, whom I passed a bit earlier recommends going his direction, although superb views he assures me are in store either way you go. I begin to walk with him and decide to engage him in conversation. I passed him before because I wanted to be alone, lost in my thoughts and fantasies, he was the first person I spoke to the entire day.

Joe was from Queensbury, which is just down the road near Glens Falls. He appeared to be very knowledgeable of the area so I decided to use his knowledge to my advantage. Turns out Joe worked for International Paper for many years and managed a tract of land in the Adirondacks totaling 350,000 acres, I was impressed. We spoke of the best areas to hike in order to be alone. I have always heard the Pharaoh Lakes wilderness area to be best- and he readily agreed, unless I wanted to venture out to the Cranberry lake region in the west of the park.

He has never seen a bear in the wild, in fact he has only seen 10 bear all of which were crossing roads during his 35 years working. That is better then me because the only bears I ever saw on the trail were on an open ridge while hiking in Kenai Fjords in Alaska, and they were 300 yards away. I have seen numerous bears on roads in Glacier National Park, northern British Columbia and the parks in Alberta, but never in the east.

We spoke of hunting season which was taking place at the moment, I told him that most of my favorite mountain biking trails close for bow season and open for shotgun season and that I debate every time whether to ride or not, always opting for many articles of clothing in orange blaze if it is too nice out not to ride. He likes the hunting downstate best, since the weather is milder the deer stay out longer and are more active, unlike upstate where most of the vegetation is gone by the end of October.

Then he made a turn towards the Fifth Mile Leanto and I decided to continue on to the mountain itself because for viewing I would rather be alone. I hadn’t driven 75 miles north of my house to share the views and contemplations that I have while looking over vast mountains, lakes and valleys. I hiked down onto a ridge and up again, all the while glimpsing light views to the east and west. The sun was making it so the views to the east were in better detail.

The first ridge I came to nearly took my breath away, I bounded out onto the grippy, moss covered rock that protruded out of the woods onto this small grassy knob looking to the east. Big, dark and mysterious Black Mountain was facing me directly across Lake George, its dark rounded top was covered in pine, but as my eyes slowly scanned the sloping ridges that appeared to jut right out of the perfectly flat Lake George I realized that they were a maze of yellow, red and orange colored trees.

Tongue Mountain Range

In the distant many of the leaves were already gone, but I should have known the leaves in the valley would still be hanging on. You see the lake moderates the temperatures as do valleys themselves. The lake was probably still warmer then the air causing the valley to remain warmer and letting the trees hold their leaves longer. North to south was a huge mountain range jutting out of the lake, I could see Vermont’s’ Green Mountains off to the north east, probably somewhere around Ticonderoga.

I could also see the peninsula I was standing on very vividly. The Tongue Mountain Range jutting out on this rather wide peninsula in the middle of Lake George was where I was standing. I looked back at the ridge that Joe had hiked to and it was the most vivid scene of all. It was a huge rounded mountain full of robust colors. Very little green stood amidst the hundreds of brightly lit trees, with the sunlight beaming onto it and changing its color combinations every couple minutes as it disappeared behind wispy clouds that were dominating the south west portion of the bright blue sky.

Small islands stood out in the middle of the lake with one rather large, lush and green one hugging the opposite shoreline. I sat down onto some brown tall grass and marveled at the sights. After a while I dozed off with a cheek to cheek smile plastered on my mouth. I woke up to the sound of birds in the distance several minutes later and could see a rather cute and small white bird eying me intently, wondering “hey how did you get up here” 1700 feet or so above the lake.

I took several pictures and then headed back down towards reality. The best thing about fall in my mind is the shortened days and how it allows you to visualize many different shades of forest with limited time. The closer to sunset it gets, the more orange the hues become and the shadows grow long, until its almost dark under the canopy of leaves. The may not have even gone down yet, but its ebbing can be sensed hours before its actual conclusion.

I walked casually down hill, stopping every couple minutes to listen for animals scurrying away from me. I also enjoyed the silence immensely and prayed it wouldn’t end, though I knew it would. I got back to my car feeling refreshed with a renewed sense of appreciation for the southern Adirondacks and a thirst for more of autumns wonders.

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