Monday, July  15, 2019
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From our open highpoint, we could now see eastward to the summit dome of Jay Mountain's ridgeline. It was only slightly higher than our current location, and separated from us by a forested low point.
Clean Rock and Green Forest
Beginning final climb
From whence we came
A brief bit of descent along with a few minutes of forest-walking (there's never more than five minutes of continuous walking through forest along this ridgeline), and we emerged into the first of several open rock patches on the way up to the top of the summit dome. Bits of footpath and a cairn here and there led us up, around and over many little steps and crags. The route is reasonably obvious, but one must pay a bit of attention to signs of cairns and foot travel, lest a wrong turn be made. Also, like much of the ridgeline beyond Grassy Notch, there is a lot of stepping up onto a ledge, then down, then up (in other words, the trail is not smooth and flat).
Final Crags
Forested summit dome
Soon the grade lessens (in general on this hike, once you are on the ridgeline, there's never any super large ascents or descents), and we arrived onto the semi-open, semi-scrubby summit dome of Jay Mountain. The footpath led to a small, slightly higher spot of open rock crowned with a fairly big cairn.

To most people, this spot appears to be the summit. In fact, for a long time, it was where I myself considered the summit to be. Back in 2011, though, on my last trip up here, I noticed that my topographic map showed that the little summit symbol was on the eastern side of the summit dome, and this spot was on the western side. Looking east, it thought that it did seem like there might be some land that was slightly higher - but a low scrubby forest made it hard to tell. I didn't bother on that trip, but today, I decided I was going to investigate further.
courtesy JInnes
Pseudo-summit Cairn
Pu and Caroline decided to relax at the big cairn. I looked along the eastern side of the open patch of rock and soon discovered a much fainter but still discernable footpath leading east through the scrubby forest. Jenn and I started along it.
courtesy JInnes
Blood Red Mushroom Bowl
I took an altitude reading with my GPS before starting, and I watched it as it descended and then re-ascended to an equivalent altitude at another open spot of bedrock. So, this spot could also be the high point - it was neither higher nor lower than where I had just come from. However, rock cairns and bits of faint footpath continued east. Wanting to bottom out this little mystery, we continued on, winding through yet another patch of scrubby forest.
Markers to Survey Marker
If it wasn't for a continuation of small cairns and signs of foot travel, I would have turned back, for the terrain was clearly starting to descend, and I was nearing the eastern edge of the summit dome. But then, another half-hidden patch of elevated bedrock appeared ahead, and there was a larger, more distinctive cairn on it.

Sure enough, this was it - I readily spotted the weathered green copper circle of a US geological survey marker not far from the cairn. Upon closer inspection, I could clearly read the letters 'JAY 1942' stamped into the center. The long-neglected summit of Jay! (well, at least by me).
Jay Mtn's Survey Marker
I could see why many people wouldn't bother to come the extra 250 yards (that's about how much farther it is). It wasn't more open than the first highspot on the summit dome. Additionally, it seemed - by my straight reckoning and by my GPS - to be about five feet lower than the other two open bumps on the dome. So, while it may be where the official Jay survey marker is located, it may not actually be the highest point.
Jay Mtn's Survey Marker
Being on the eastern part of Jay's summit dome, however, meant there were better views here to the east. In fact, from a nice lookout a few yards south of the survey marker, one got a nice wide sweep of everything to the east - a large section of Lake Champlain and the line of the Green Mountains in Vermont beyond. And probably a lot of solitude, if there are a lot of people back at the 'pseudo-summit'.
East from Summit
With this new bit of Jay Mountain now explored and mapped, we returned back to the pseudo-summit and rejoined with Pu and Caroline, then started on our journey back. Because this is a mostly flat ridge hike with lots of little craggy ups and downs, a descent from Jay Mountain involves pretty much the same effort as getting up to it.
Distant Marcy
We clearly loitered far less on the way back, for it took us only 55 minutes to hike back along the ridgeline to the start of the official descent trail (It had taken us an hour and a half on the way up for the same stretch).
Beginning Journey Back
Between the open spots
Back over bumps
courtesy JInnes
Back over bumps
Back over bumps
FInal meadow-walking
The way down through the trees along the new NYSDEC trail was pretty much as straightforward as you'd expect. Once again, we definitely noticed the extra distance - but it is now certainly a trail where you can simply put your mind on autopilot.

One thought did come to me as I was descending along the new trail: it was remarkably trodden on (i.e. wide and devoid of vegetation) for a trail that was only two years old. I would have expected something a bit less beaten out. Do new trails set in this quickly?
Down into the trees
Through the notch
Trailhead arrivial
In all, today took an extra 3km (2 miles) of roundtrip distance (compared to my previous Jay outings). This extra distance comes partially from the route of the new official trail, and because I continued on to the official summit. Have a look at the trackmap for a side-by-side of old and new routes.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Jay Mtn (true summit and new trail) - click map to view

Jay Mtn (via new trail, and to true summit)
Start Time:
9:00AM
Start Elevation:
1505ft (459m) *
End Time:
2:54PM
Max Elevation:
3631ft (1107m) *
Duration:
5h53m
Min Elevation:
1489ft (454m) *
Distance:
12.59 km (7.83 mi)
End Elevation:
1500ft (457m) *
Average Speed:
2.1 km/hr (1.3 mph)
* : +/- 75 feet
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