Happy 2023 Everyone! The year is not yet two weeks old and already we've got a hiking TR: the third sunset hike of the 2022-2023 fall-winter hiking season. This time, we're tackling Hurricane Mountain - a beautiful low-ish peak on the eastern edge of the central high peaks of the Adirondacks. Like the other two recent sunset hikes (well, really, all of my Adirondack sunset hikes), it fit the required criteria: not too long, sports a beautiful summit, and has a clear unobstructed view to the west (in order to witness a glorious sunset).
Much of the 2022-23 holiday period saw wet, slushy, cloudy weather - completely inappropriate for sunset hikes. Finally, however, the second weekend of January had one day - Sunday the 8th - where the weather looked good for a sunset hike. Mild temps, low winds, and mostly clear skies. The call went out, and, in the end, myself, Jenn, Roland, Pu, and Alana decided to join. For Roland and Pu, this was the first time back to the Adirondacks in more than five years. Welcome, guys!
We started off from the Hurricane Mountain trailhead along route 9N at 1:45pm. The sunset today was scheduled for 4:33pm, so this gave us a comfortable two hours and forty-eight minutes to reach the summit. With only five kilometres (3 miles) of distance to get to the summit, we were in pretty good shape. It was hard to imagine not being able to cover three miles in almost three hours.
To say that the winter of 2022-2023 was looking a little weak on the snow front was an understatement, and the trail conditions today reflected that. There was only a thin (perhaps six inch) layer of hard snow, and often even that was not present. On any slope that remotely faced south, there was much more bare ground than snow, and in a few spots, no snow to be seen at all. Given that we were fast approaching the middle of January, this didn't bode well for a big snowpack this year. Back at the car, we had eyeballed the nearby peaks and observed the trailhead snowpack, and had decided to not bring snowshoes. Instead we had decided to hike in microspikes right from the get-go.
The Hurricane Mountain trail rises moderately steeply to a nice lower lookout to the east, then levels off and begins a long crossing of the big flat (often marshy) basin that sits to the south of Hurricane's summit. The thin crunchy layer of snow was quite easy to hike and we made rapid progress to the far side of the basin.
Boardwalks where necessary
Boardwalks where necessary
We were now on the new (2018-ish) re-route of the Hurricane Mountain trail (this reroute is longer, more scenic, and less steep than the old direct basin headwall trail). Our ascent up from the basin to Hurricane's southwestern ridgeline was, once again, nearly completely devoid of snow (owing to its south-facing aspect).
Once the trail reached the ridgecrest, a thin snowpack returned, and for the rest of the way up to the summit, it was mostly continuous. I had only done this new variant of the Hurricane Mountain trail once before, back in late January of 2019 with Gino and Hatko
, and at that time, there was a thicker snowpack. Today I got a better sense of the underlying tread here and noticed that it was not particularly smooth and pleasant, but rather a bit rougher and more unpleasant than one would expect for a brand new trail.
An extended length of in-forest hiking up the ridgecrest brought us to the first of two excellent viewpoints not far below Hurricane's summit. These two viewpoints are the biggest benefits of the recent trail re-route. We stopped at the first of the two viewpoints to take in the distant views (which are primarily to the south and east), and of the nice closeup view of Hurricane's bare bedrock summit, now only a few hundred yards ahead.
The trail ducked back into forest as we wound our way closer to the summit, coming out at one closer viewpoint before we arrived at a small col right below the main summit block. We could tell that a chill breeze likely awaited us above treeline, so we stopped here to layer up before venturing any farther.
Properly bundled up, we continued upwards, surmounting a few minor icy ledges to gain the small chute that leads up to treeline. We were ahead of schedule, having made good time, and it was still nearly forty minutes to sunset as we arrived at treeline. We stopped for some selfies and to take in some of the surrounding views.
The forecast had been for only a few degrees below freezing and light winds, and I had envisioned conditions that would feel mild. But no... it felt chilly, cold - more than the forecast would have suggested. Certainly it was no "hurricane", for it was quite calm and placid, but it certainly didn't feel mild.
A strip of high cloud hovered over the western horizon. That strip of high clouds was a good thing, for there was a good chance that after the sun set, light from below would colorfully reflect off of it.