Shortly after crossing the valley's low point, we arrived at the edge of steeper terrain. The trail abruptly started upward here, on a grade that was steeper than the (admittedly gentle) terrain on which we had so far been hiking.
A short distance off of the trail to the right came the sound of rushing water, and a quick look revealed an energetic little brook and a wonderful little waterfall-cascade. This watercourse was Hour Pond brook, discharging the waters of our next destination for the day: Hour Pond.
After taking some long-exposure shots of the Hour Pond Brook waterfall, we returned to the trail. Finally, after a couple of hours of almost entirely flat hiking, we were finally starting to ascend in earnest. Over a steady but never overly-steep grade, we gained about 350 feet of elevation over the course of a mile to a junction with the spur trail leading to Hour Pond itself. Noting that we had been achieving a solid 2 mph (3km/hr) pace, we felt that we had time to give the pond a look-see.
Hour Pond Junction
The side trail to Hour Pond was noticeably narrower and rougher than the main arterial paths we had travelled along thus far. After a brief descent, we came to a beautiful pond, clear and blue, bordered by fresh fronds of grass and backed by a forested wall of fiery autumn red.
Unnamed Beaver Pond
The pond was beaver-created, and apparently had received some fairly recent "maintenance": a fairly fresh rim of mud, sticks, and branches had expertly dammed the southern end of the pond, raising its level by a good couple of feet. It also apparently had covered the hour pond trail, because as soon as we got to the pond's edge, we lost the trail.
No problem with cold water
After following an incorrect herdpath in a southerly direction until it faded into nothing (not surprising, since that is the most obvious way to go if you don't know that the trail goes underneath the water), we returned back to the pond. Closer inspection revealed signs of foot traffic along the base of the dam. Carefully picking our way along the dam's rim, we eventually came to the far side (and with that, the resumption of the visible footpath and trail markers).
An uneventful twenty or more minutes of generally uphill walking brought us to Hour Pond - a fairly large (perhaps 250 square yards / metres) body of water backed by the wide and flat-topped bulk of Bullhead Mountain. There were some nice campsites and a lean-to here. It wasn't a super-spectacular spot (the beaver-dammed pond was more scenic), but it seemed like a nice, quiet out of the way spot. Probably didn't get a ton of hiker or camper traffic. A good place to get some solitude.
Descent to Thirteenth Lake
With the beaver dam situation figured out, it took us less time to make the hike back to the start of the Hour Pond trail, and soon we had recommenced our clockwise journey around Thirteenth Lake. The trail headed north and up, passing through a forested pass and then descending about 400 to 500 feet, down to the shore of Thirteenth Lake itself - all the while on easy and soft forest path.
Arriving 13th Shore
North of this point, the trail remained fairly close or next to the shore of Thirteenth Lake, and there were semi-frequent opportunities to get a viewpoint directly onto the lake.
A few minutes later, we crossed over Peaked Mountain Brook on a sturdy two-log bridge, and arrived at the junction with the Peaked Mountain trail. The trail would bring us to the top of Peaked Mountain - our highlight point of interest for today.
The Peaked Mountain Brook trail initially headed uphill, immediately adjacent to the waters of Peaked Mountain Brook, which along this section frequently sported gentle little flumes and cascades. Eventually the trail angled away from the brook's banks, but it never strayed too far from it. In fact, the trail periodically crossed back and forth along the brook on its way to Peaked Mountain Pond (the source of the brook, which the trail reaches before beginning its ascent of Peaked Mountain itself).
Peaked Mountain Brook widened into several meadow-bogs along its short journey from Peaked Mountain Pond to Thirteenth Lake, and the trail made some pleasant visits to the edges of these open areas. One of the open areas furthest up the trail gave a superbly-framed view of Peaked Mountain, which actually looked quite.... peaked.
The Peaked Mountain Pond trail is steeper initially and generally flatter as one approaches Peaked Mountain Pond. Overall, it is a roughly 500 foot climb from start of trail to the Pond - nothing particularly difficult, and we covered the distance in about one hour. A short walk to the left gave us a nice view of Peaked Mountain rising above the pond's waters.
The Peaked Mountain Trail turned right at the pond, heading north directly towards the summit. From the good viewpoint I described a short way back, we had seen some open rock on the peak's south face, and we had thought that perhaps the trail did some interesting sort of scramble up that face. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case. The trail instead skirted the open terrain, climbing to the left and up the southwestern slopes of the peak. There were still some steep stretches, mind you - just not out in the open and not really scrambling.
South from initial lookouts
Peaked Mountain is not particularly high by Adirondack standards, topping out at a modest 2919 feet, so the steep trail climbing didn't last all that long (about 600 feet of steep ascent in total). It was the only part of our relatively easy day that got us well and truly sweating.