Duncan has been on my bucket list for quite some time, so after a little successful coaxing of my hiking friend Melissa I was on my way to seeing what’s up there. Located in the Alder Brook Mountains, just north of Wilmington Center, we found ourselves in the small hamlet of Union Falls. Casey Road would be our jump off point, which is nothing more than a rough county road to the east of the summit proper.
Duncan Mountain was named after John Duncan the owner of the property back in the 1850's. The land was later sold to John McKillip who also has a mountain named after him, just on the other side of the Alder Brook Mountains. An Alder of course is short for speckled alder which is a wetland species of tree that grows very densely along many streams, rivers, and creeks in the Adirondacks.
Preparring the trip
After a bit of studying of the Alder Brook quad map I had a pretty good idea on how I wanted to plan this short excursion. That plan would be the park near the eastern ridge and use that as our “handrail” to the summit. The rain events during the previous two days left the forest a bit on the soggy end, similar to what it would be like to hike through a car wash.
We found a less than perfect spot to get half the car off the road, but the limited traffic Casey Road sees would remove any potential to a traffic jam. The forest was an open hardwood grove with what appeared to be traced with numerous deer paths throughout giving us many options of travel without the need to brushing up against the wet leaves. We ended up on the south side of the east ridge looking up at open rock and loose jumbles before us; even with the moist ground the traction was actually quite decent.
Catching a view or two
The views started soon after we started the steep scramble up the moss coated slabs and leaf littered duff. The rain was still threatening on this day as well and the low-lying clouds added a bit of face to the warning. With a slight drizzle in the air we popped out onto our first section of open rock with an interesting vista over Union Falls Pond and the Saranac River. Off in the distance we could see blue sky trying to burn off the low clouds, and a faint hue colored the mountains beneath.
We spent quite some time wandering around the ridge and taking in view after view as they opened up around us. We visited with the cedar waxwing clan that was also touring the ridge and we relaxed until finally the clouds parted and we could even see the Green Mountains of Vermont. From here we had to jump back into the forest where we would need to fight off some thicker spruce and balsam growth; we were now getting soaked.
Even with the rising temperatures the slight southern breeze had a cooling effect on our wet outwear, which gave me a slight chill, one for which sped me up a bit and kept me dancing in my steps. The spruce finally gave way once again to open hardwoods with a grassy floor. The summit followed suit as we stood atop the small boulder that was the highpoint of Duncan Mountain. Even with no whopping views we enjoyed the peace and quiet of Mother Nature’s beauty; now to warm up my bare skin again.
Getting back to the car
We decided on a slightly different descent route, one that would cut down on a bit of distance but would include some extremely steep terrain. We dropped off the peak very quickly into a shallow draw and even under slippery conditions we didn’t falter from a rapid forward motion. As a side note the stinging nettles are out and fully coated with their burning and itching micro-hairs, so have fun with that. Then came Casey Road, expected, but much quicker than we anticipated; that was OK. What this meant was we had plenty of time that we could now gain ourselves some hot coffee and energy; of course a stop to The Candyman would fill both of those cravings.