Silhouetted against the lowering sun in a most spectacular fashion, we arrived at the summit of Noonmark mountain a few minutes past 4pm. We had just under twenty minutes to get ourselves layered up and sat to watch the sunset. It was definitely cooler and breezier up here than it had been down at the trailhead, but nothing like the biting cold wind of last week's Ampsersand summit. A few extra layers and some gloves and we were good to sit on the summit block atop Noonmark. A summit block that offered an excellent view to the west.
We watched as the orange spotlight of the sun sank towards the horizon. Happily it indeed looked like the sun was not going to be obscured by a peak as it descended - instead, it was going to go down at a low point just to the west of Allen Mountain (arguably one of the Adirondack 46's most disliked peaks). Behind us, the sharp peak of Noonmark was casting a very distinct pyramidal shadow onto the flanks of Giant Mountain and Rocky Peak. It was so cool to be up on one of these summits at this magical point in time.
Right on schedule, at 4:20pm, the sun sank below the terrain to the west of Allen Mountain. The light in the air around us switched in a now-familiar way from orange to a pale blue. Off to the east, the higher summit of Giant stayed in the orange sunlight for a few more minutes, and then, it too fell into shadow. Night had arrived.
Of course, it doesn't instantly get completely dark as soon as the sun sets, and in the bright twilight immediately afterwards, we set about to gather our things and get our headlamps ready on our necks.
By 4:30pm, we were ready to head down. I was actually quite looking forward to this descent: the fact that there were so many open areas and lookouts to the west on the upper part of the descent meant that we would likely get all sorts of different colors and moods, backed by beautiful mountain scenery, as we descended.
We were not at all disappointed. The deepening twilight created a beautiful band of orange on the western horizon. The bumps and humps of the Great Range of the Central High Peaks cut across that band, enhancing and highlighting it. Against that grand backdrop we hiked, headlamps now on, down the steep ridgeline. A very young waxing moon rounded out the scene, "old earth" clearly visible inside the bright crescent.
The sections of open ridgeline lessened and our time in the trees increased. Eventually we no longer had views of the western skyline, but by that time, the twilight had nearly completely faded away into dark night. At the last lookout, down into Keene Valley, we could see a few dots of lights from the scattered homesteads, as well as the head and taillamps of cars travelling up and down route 73.
We arrived back at the parking lot shortly after 6:30pm. In all, not that different of a departure, duration and return as last week on Ampersand
. I would have to say that this week's outing eclipsed last week's in terms of experience and scenery. The open ridgeline ascent and descent, the framing against the backdrop of the nearby High Peaks - both added a dimension of experience that Ampersand wasn't able to provide. This one was a solid 8 out of 10 on the sunset-hike-greatness-scale. Thanks once again to Brian and Caroline for being available to do this one!