Where I work, there had been talk for many months (a year even) about how it would be really nice if we could all go on a 'team-building' mountain hike. Our local hills didn't qualify as mountains (and we wanted a mountain hike), so gradually, over time, we got comfortable with the idea of me taking everyone on a short, scenic mountain hike in the Adirondacks. We targeted the months of fall, for both their extra colorful scenic value and also for the good conditions (dry, cool, no bugs). We decided to 'float' the hike day: we'd wait until we saw a good weather window approaching, and then make a last minute decision to go. This way, we'd have a much better chance of securing a good day - something I wanted for introducing first-time Adirondack hikers!
There are many beautiful short hikes in the Adirondacks: Ampersand, Cascade, Catamount, Noonmark, Hurricane, and Jay, just to name a few. I waffled quite a bit between all of the them, trying to find the right balance between length, difficulty, scenic-ness, and access.
It was tough deciding to go on the day that we did (which was Wednesday, Oct 17): the weather forecast fluctuated all over the map, and even until the night before, I was unsure about whether it was going to be suitable. However, it all turned out quite nicely, as you'll see below!
We all met at work at 6am. Originally there was to be 12 or 13 of us, but a little bit of attrition brought us down to nine: myself, Greg, Beili, Sath, James, Shaoli, Tim, Steve, and Gerry. We squeeezed into two vehicles (sorry about the center position, Tim!) and headed down to the 'daks. We had a beautiful blood-red sunrise and quite a bit of atmospheric sun-under-clouds type lighting. It wasn't totally clear, but it was pretty obvious it wasn't going to rain, either. And, as we got down to the high peaks, we could see that the cloud deck was way above the tops of the peaks.
Since the weather was trending towards pretty decent, I decided to choose Noonmark - slightly further away than the other hikes, but full of positives: lots of lookouts, a great summit, and a good position near the core of the central high peaks (and as a result, better views).
Steve and I (the two drivers) dropped everyone else off at Noonmark's trailhead at the edge of the AMR golf course, thereby cutting off a few hundred extra metres of walking from the parking area. Steve and I then quickly parked the cars and motored up to meet the rest of the group, who had leisurely started up the trail towards Noonmark.
We had a fair bit of high cloud, but it was thin and we could see blue in places. Although the foliage season was well on its way to completion, there was still a lot of color to be seen - and even places where some trees still had green leaves. All in all, the colors provided a pleasant luminescence to the lower part of our hike.
Steve and I soon caught up to the rest of the group, who were waiting at the junction of the main trail to Dix and the Stimson Trail (The Stimson trail was the trail we used to ascend Noonmark).
We started up at a slow but steady pace, admiring the fall foliage and enjoying the pleasant hiking conditions. Greg was impressed with fairly extensive trailwork the lower part of the Stimson trail has received.
Soon we were climbing up through the 'cliffy band' on the Stimson trail - a place where the trail climbs up through a short series of cliff bands. Above this, we arrived at the first of the many excellent lookouts. The high cloud and hazy conditions created somewhat muted but still very decent views; and, at this first lookout, our views were eastward and northward, towards Keene Valley and Giant Mountain.