My Dad made one of his usual quick visits to Ottawa in fall of this year (2007). We did the usual things... visiting, going out to dinner - that sort of stuff. But I think he put a bug in my mind when he posted this entry in the forum section of our recent climb of MacNaughton mountain a few weeks earlier. It was a simple message, and not unlike some he had made in the past:
"WOW. Some beautiful views of the area. Wish I had been there."
So... I got to thinking... why not? why shouldn't he be here for one of these hikes? Then he wouldn't have to wish anymore! Sure, he's turning 87, but I am a firm believer that people are often capable of more than they give themselves credit for.
I picked the best day, weather-wise, of the days he was visiting: a partly sunny, hazy, and humid Saturday morning. It wasn't an ideal situation, but at least it looked like we'd have some views. I packed extra warmwear, rainwear, and food for my Dad, and off we went, driving down to the Adirondacks early Saturday Morning, October 6.
The Adirondak Loj parking lot was as full as I'd ever seen it in my life. Simply bursting with cars and people looking to get out and see the falls colors. Fortunately, we got a spot before it all filled up.
For our Dad in the 'Daks intro hike I picked a short trail up a little peak, one that I hadn't done before: Mt Jo. Mt Jo rises up not far from Heart Lake and the parking lot at Adirondak Loj. The perfect intro hike to the area, and I'd heard that the views from the top were grand.
We started off on the easy wheelchair-accessible trail that leads over to the little Adirondak Museum. An easy but misleading little intro to Adirondack trails for Dad. They sure ain't all like this around here! After a few minutes of this, we reached the junction with the trail up to Mt Jo, where the trail turned into a more typical Adirondacks woodland path.
In a few minutes, we reached the trail register and a big interpretive sign / map. Our plan: ascend up the steeper 'short trail' to the summit of Mt Jo, and then make a loop out of it and descend via the 'long trail' route on the way back. Plus, we'd scoot over to Heart Lake and take a final scenic walk along the Lake shore.
The trail was the usual lower elevation Adirondack sort of thing. Not too steep, but fairly uneven, with lots of little rocks and roots and stuff. However, it soon started to get steeper and get suprisingly bouldery. A bit unexpected for a short little 'intro peak'! Dad, with hiking poles in full use, had to quickly learn the ins and outs of the fancy footwork required on this sort of trail.
The fall colors had brightened up noticeably from when we were here two weeks earlier. In spots, it was a briliant kaleidoscope of neon colors.
The trail continued to get steeper and even bouldery-er. If you wanted a short but representative stretch of what the steepest and rougher trails of the Adirondacks can be like, this is it. Fortunately, some good trailwork had re-arranged the worst of these boulders.
Now, I think Dad has been hitching a few too many rides in his golfing buddy's golf cart, because we had to stop every so often for a breather! Still - acceptably spry, I suppose!
After a very steep but short-ish stretch underneath some cliffs, we topped out on a shoulder not far from the summit. From here, the steepness lessened considerably. We encountered a few semi-open ledges, then walked across a mostly flat stretch to the final summit segment.
The views are starting...