A bit of trail before a bit of forest
As I sit writing this flashback story that is engraved in my head, Corenne is playing the part of Shelly Duval standing over my shoulder reading as I ponder behind the computer as Jack Nicholson. She thinks it’s pretty funny, asking, “Hi honey, get a lot written today?” I can only laugh at the thought since we just watched that thriller.
Corenne and I had just returned from a two-week vacation in sunny Arizona where as you may guess the hiking is quite different and the temperatures are no comparison. We love the Adirondacks and with that we are always missing our home by the end of our trip out west. We particularly enjoy coming back to the recreation we all love so much and of course this time of year, the colors. The day before this little hike we left Phoenix at 106 degrees of skin-wrinkling temperatures and arrived in Albany at a cool 50 degrees, the cool felt refreshing. Abby, our four-legged hiking companion has been on a hiatus with friends in town and she was also ready to get out and hike, she practically dislocated her tail wagging it so hard as we walked up the drive.
We didn’t want anything too demanding, more of a relaxing get out and walk type of outing, but of course I had to introduce a bit of off-trail travel as well. We eyeballed the new trail in Wilmington to Cobble Overlook, a popular new trail perfect for the entire family.
New trail to a lookout
So, knowing we had to go back to work the next day, we headed off in a forlorn effort to keep from losing our minds. We soon arrived at the trailhead which is located off CR 18 near the Toll Road for Whiteface Mountain; a new DEC trail sign marks the spot. There really is no official parking lot but there is plenty of space along the roadside on both sides of the road, which is a good thing considering it was as busy as a brew pub at happy hour - which just so happened to be planned for after the hike.
The trail is quite an easy one with very little elevation change throughout the course of the mile or so that it exists. We moved along swiftly up the slight incline that passes near the base of the ice climbing cliff in the old Whiteface Memorial Road quarry. This quarry was used to get some of the rocks used to build portions of the current troll road up Whiteface Mountain; it is now used in the winter as a beginner ice climbing destination as well as a local treasure hunt through all the rubble left behind from the mining camps. With all the glass and sharp rusty metals it was not a place for a dog to be traipsing around; we didn’t hang out in fear of a cut on a doggy pad.
The trail from here just glanced by us as we passed many visitors along the way. Soon we were upon the open shelf of jumbled rocks and limitless views of Whiteface and Esther Mountains. Far to the east stood Jay Mountain and just a stones throw away was the Sentinel Range. Small groups were scattered about the long open ledge, kids playing in the loose stones, laughing and having a great time and others just reclining on the cool granite enjoying the warming sun. We traversed about the ridge to take in the additional views but eventually settled upon a flat rock near the boulder.
Heading to Winch
After about 30-minutes of relaxing and revitalizing our minds, we set off to see what we could find between us and Winch Mountain. Winch Mountain rests just north of the trail at about 2700’ feet in elevation, not all that much higher than where we were at right then. We could see the mountain off in the nearby distance through the trees, the foliage was just starting to depart the branches, heading to their new home as ground cover. The colors are nearing peak but not quite there yet, many of the sugar maple and birch trees are holding on for one more week, waiting for me to get back from the land of cacti.
I located an old forest road, one I had noticed last winter on my snowshoe trip up Cobble Overlook, and decided this could be a starting point for the trip over. It didn’t stay up where we needed it to, but rather it descended into the valley, surely to end at the North Pole below. North Pole below, that just doesn’t make sense, but there it is.
We wanted to stay along the contour lines as to not lose too much elevation in the traverse over. The pungent smell of decaying leaves was starting to come out, but it still did not have that welcoming smell of autumn in the air. Mushrooms whose stems and caps are usually quite apparent were not abundant as expected, but yet the occasional puff of the open spores of the puffballs was seen underfoot sending out little smoke signals.
We inevitably descended a bit, but we did manage to stay atop the flat shelves of the hillsides. Soon we would have to ascend again, and we did. The route I had planned gave us an easy passage through the deciduous forest around us, and the lack of blowdown made it easy to move through. We were welcomed atop our climb with added views of a very similar feel as to what was on Cobble Overlook. The views were mainly the same but slightly higher, a great sight for sure. Breathing in deeply we took in the cool air before we started our descent back to the trail which, like clockwork, brought us quite close to where we had left it only an hour-and-a-half before.
We ended our day with a few brews and some pub grub on our way home. A great ending to a great day in the mountains, can’t wait to see what’s next.